Benefits of Zero Drop Shoes and Tips for a Smooth Transition

Natalie Cecconi
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What Are Zero Drop Shoes and How Do They Work?

Zero Drop shoes are designed so that your heel is not elevated relative to your toes. This means that the shoe sole looks more like a rectangular prism (i.e. a box) than a typical shoe.

This trait eliminates the heel-striking mechanics often used in typical running and contributes to better running form.

Many running enthusiasts are aware of the need for running shoes that address this issue, but actually finding pairs of them can be a challenge.

Fortunately, companies like Vibram, Vivo Barefoot, and Vivobarefoot are offering running shoes with the zero drop design.

Embracing a sudden change from heels-striking to zero drop can be uncomfortable, however.

In fact, it is not unusual to experience pain in the shins, knees, or sometimes even lower back and pelvis. This is called “adaptive shock,” and it will only last for a few weeks before you can enjoy Zero Drop perks.

Benefits of Zero-Drop Shoes

If you haven’t noticed (and you probably haven’t if you’re not a runner), most running shoes have a heel drop, meaning that the heel is higher than the forefoot. This feature lends stability to your footstrike, which is the impact your feet have with the ground when you’re running. The idea is that as you’re running, your foot strikes the ground, and if the impact is absorbed by your heel and not your forefoot, you’ll be able to maintain a better, more efficient stride.

Zero heel-toe drop refers to the design of shoes that place the toe and heel of the shoes at the same level. In other words, zero heel drop shoes are designed to have an even strike across the entire foot during footstrike.

Tips for a Smooth Transition to Zero-Drop Shoes

If you want to be more active but are concerned about foot pain, then you’re not alone.

Typically the pain from wearing high-heeled shoes is associated with the impact of heel-striking while running. For most people, this is a serious concern, and can have a lowered participation in running or an altogether stopped interest in the activity.

Enter the world of “Zero-Drop” Shoes.

Zero-drop shoes, what does that mean? The term zero-drop simply refers to a pair of shoes that don’t have a heel-to-toe elevation of more than 1 cm. Many people who are new to barefoot running are often skeptical about how minimal shoes such as Vibram’s Five-Fingers will perform. Variances such as grip, weight, stability, flexibility, and arch support were mentioned as the reasons for this doubt, but most of these concerns are unfounded.

The benefits that minimal running shoes bring to a runner are outstanding. One of the most noticeable advantages is the fact that the zero-drop shoes allow for greater hip and ankle range of motion, giving the feet maximum flexibility to adapt to all different types of ground surfaces. This results in a more natural and sustainable running motion which does not translate to the wear and tear on the body that running in heels does.

Before buying a pair

Of zero drop shoes, it’s important that you take some time to be sure that this is the right form of footwear for you.

While zero drop footwear may be good for your foot mechanics, those with a flatter arch may not be so comfortable with a zero drop shoe.

If you are uncertain about whether to make the transition to zero drop shoes, try the following steps to determine if zero drop shoes are right for you.

  1. You don’t know if your foot is supinated (you do know what that is, right?).
  2. You currently wear shoes that are supportive and comfortable.
  3. You don’t have any foot pain.
  4. You don’t currently get a lot of foot or ankle injuries.
  5. You aren’t one to just “walk around in your bare feet.”
  6. You don’t prefer to spend a lot of time barefoot/in minimalist shoes.
  7. You like structure in your shoes.
  8. You’re not athletic.
  9. You like your shoes to stand out.
  10. You’re not young.

After buying a pair

Of zero drop shoes, what are the key benefits you can expect?

Zero drop shoes are a great footwear option for people who are suffering from aches and pains in their feet, knees, hips, and back.

The close, well-cushioned fit allows you to feel at home when walking, jogging, or just about anything else. You will feel a significant relief almost immediately.

The foot is meant to land flat on the ground during a standard gait. Once you start wearing zero drop shoes, your feet will become more accustomed to landing without a heel strike and without the need for anything to absorb the impact. This weight-bearing will go a long way in decreasing potential discomfort in the heel and joints of the feet and legs.

Zero drop shoes are also a great option for people with back pain.

Since they come without elevated heels, they help you to maintain good posture by encouraging you to walk and run with an upright posture, rather than a forward flexing posture, which reduces the risk of back pain.

Another key benefit is that zero drop shoes can help you become agile and take on more varied exercise routines.

If you’ve ever worn or used a running shoe with elevated heels, you may have felt hampered and stiff in your movements. In zero drop shoes, you are more stable and able to adapt and change the way you move according to your needs.

Final Thoughts

Some people are jumping on the zero offset boat before they really know what they’re doing. At a time when only one or two companies are making zero drop shoes, it can be a bit difficult to know what you’ve gotten yourself into. But now that you know more about them and the possible transition period, you are much better prepared for the life change that has just presented itself.

Are you ready for a radical change in your life?

The reality is that you will find some challenges to getting used to zero drop shoes. Everything will be awkward for the first couple of weeks. But your body will adjust to the change no problem. You’ll feel like you have a pair of slip on shoes again, but with much better biomechanics for running.

I’ll leave you with one last thought on zero drop shoes. Even though shoe models and technology are continually evolving, what is really going to keep you happy is adapting your running style to the shoe. If you run in a way that is compatible with the shoe you are wearing, you will minimize injury and enjoy an easy running experience.