Are Zero Drop Shoes The Right Choice For You?
There are so many shoe choices out there from which runners can pick. When contemplating what kind of shoes you want, or which ones would be best for your body, the answer is often not clear-cut. Everything from support to style, cushion to color, gives the consumer things to consider.
One choice many people are starting to consider in greater numbers is the zero drop running shoe.
What Are Zero Drop Running Shoes?
A zero drop shoe’s most distinct feature is that the heel and toe of the shoe are at the same height off the ground. If you look at the most popular running shoes, the stack at the heel is higher than the cushion below the forefoot. The difference between these two measurements is known as the drop of the shoe.
Many people mistakenly think that just because a shoe has zero drop, that means that there is no support. That is not necessarily the case. Many zero drop shoes do have cushion, it is just evenly distributed across the entire bottom of the shoe.
Why Choose Zero Drop Running Shoes?
As more runners move toward the minimalist running movement, they often embrace the zero drop shoe. Why? Because a shoe with zero drop more closely mimics barefoot running. It allows your foot to move as nature intended to move.
The idea is that left to its own devices, your foot will move how it is supposed to move. If you’re scratching your head, hear me out.
Stability and motion control shoes do just that, they control how your foot moves. For years, runners have bought into the idea that you need to keep your feet from doing certain things.
Minimalist proponents argue that you should not be trying to force your feet into anything. Just let your feet do what they’re going to do. Many runners feel strongly that this results in fewer injuries, not more.
Pros and Cons?
As you decide if zero drop shoes would be good for you, let’s look at both sides of the argument.
Pros to Zero Drop Shoes
- Injury Reduction: Many runners find that they have fewer injuries after transitioning to zero drop.
- Natural Feel: You are running how nature intended you to run.
- Lighter: Since they have less material in the soles of the shoes, they are naturally much lighter than other shoes.
- Improved Posture & Alignment: These two things go hand in hand with a more natural running form that will result from the zero drop shoe.
- Builds Strength: First, you are relying more on your muscles than on a shoe structure as you run, which builds strength. In addition, the muscles in your ankles, feet and calves will strengthen.
Many people will be very quick to tell you the negative aspects of zero-depth shoes.
- Insufficient arch support can lead to a collapsed arch.
- Risk of injury.
- Foot pain may result.
Have you noticed that the list of cons seems much shorter than the list of benefits? Proponents of zero drop shoes would urge you to take note of that. Those who think that zero drop is bad for your body would tell you that all of those negatives can result in a runner sidelined due to injury.
Are Zero Drop Shoes Good for Plantar Fasciitis?
First things first: let’s explore what plantar fasciitis is. One of the most common causes of heel pain, plantar fasciitis is where you experience inflammation in the thick band of tissue that runs under your foot and connects to the heel. Noted by a stabbing pain in the bottom of your foot, most prevalent first thing in the morning, plantar fasciitis (or PF for short) plagues many runners.
Although many people find themselves in a super supportive shoe as they work their way through PF, proponents of the minimalist would tell you that you are just treating the effects of PF with this shoe selection. There are many people who have done the exercises to strengthen their feet and worked their way out of supportive shoes.
Finding a shoe with a wide toe box, zero heel drop and that is extremely flexible can actually help to strengthen your feet and alleviate PF. Please note that is after you have done the things to get rid of your PF. It also bears mention that you should never jump right into zero drop shoes. You need to ease into them to prevent injury.
Zero Drop Running Shoes and Calf Pain
The first thing you should know is that if you jump right into a pair of zero drop shoes, you are likely going to experience calf pain. You need to ease your way into them in order to keep your body happy and healthy.
Zero drop shoes will help you develop stronger calf muscles. It would also help you to do some calf exercises as you acclimate to the change. Who doesn’t want stronger muscles?
Zero Drop Running Shoes for High Arches
People with high arches are often tempted to wear something with a ton of support. After all, support is good, right? Well, it can be. However, if you support something completely, it can also stop working properly.
Perhaps the question to ask yourself is if your arches are high and strong, or high and weak. If you have high arches and all of the corresponding muscles in the foot are strong, and you routinely work on strengthening them, you can likely try a zero drop shoe.
Again, we caution you to make sure you are not just jumping right in. Transitioning from a more traditional running shoe to a zero drop shoe takes time.
Zero Drop Shoes for Flat Feet
A zero drop shoe can be great for someone with flat feet! If you have flat feet, find a zero drop shoe with a lot of room for toe spread and not a lot of toe spring.
If you don’t experience pain from your flat feet, you are a great candidate for a zero drop shoe. If you do get pain without the structure of a supportive shoe, tread carefully.
Be sure your transition to a zero drop shoe is slow, methodical and mindful. Listen to your body as you work your way into the new shoes.
Zero Drop Running Shoes for Wide Feet
Most zero drop shoes are going to be great for those with wide feet. Why do you ask? Because they are all about natural movement.
You should again look for a wider toe box so your toes can splay out naturally with each footfall. This is the most natural position and movement for your feet to experience.
Do Zero Drop Running Shoes Help Knee Pain?
This question could be answered both yes or no. On the one hand, there are people who have transitioned into a zero drop shoe and worked diligently on strengthening muscles, which led to less pain all around.
On the other hand, some runners have found that these shoes simply don’t offer enough structure and support, and it led to injuries such as knee pain.
When a new runner asks me what I think about zero drop or minimalist shoes, I pause before constructing my response. I firmly believe that these shoes are great for some people. I am also confident that many runners could do with far less structure in the shoes they are wearing.
However, I do not think that every runner should start to switch over. The shoes you choose to wear need to work for you. And who are we to question what works for your body and your running?