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What Is A Low Drop Running Shoe?

Ahhh…there’s nothing like the feeling of a first run in new shoes. I recently bought new running shoes and this time the feeling was different. I have forever run in major stability shoes.  After a lengthy conversation at the running store, I decided to switch to a lower drop Saucony Omni 11. During the conversation about the benefits of a lower drop shoe all I could think about was how this seemed to go against everything I was ever told about running. After an injury I inevitably heard from seasoned runners, sports medicine doctors and running coaches, “are you running in the right shoes?” and “you need more stability.”

How was my first run? When I finally relaxed and stopped focusing on what I was expecting to feel I realized I felt wonderful. I felt like the run was less taxing on my legs and each step took less energy, was smoother and felt less clunky.

So, what does low drop mean? I wasn’t totally clear but was determined to find out.

Low drop (or minimalist) shoes have less cushioning and are lower to the ground than traditional shoes, have less stride-controlling structure and have a lower heel-to-toe ramp angle, or a more gradual drop from where the heel and forefoot sit, allowing the foot to sit almost level in the shoe. The less the shoe interferes with the foot’s natural mechanisms the more the foot will soilidify and the greater it will perform to the forces of impact brought on by running dynamics (The Run Clinic).

According to Saucony:

We’ve introduced Support Frame for overall support and stability in the heel, and the heel-to-toe offset has been adjusted from 12mm to 8mm to promote a more balanced, efficient stride throughout the gait cycle.

A higher drop shoe is 10mm+ compared to 0-8mm of a lower drop shoe. So, what are the benefits of a 0-8mm heel to toe drop?

  1. A more efficient stride resulting from dramatically increased sensory information received by your feet.
  2. Promotes a transition to a mid- or forefoot landing pattern and away from painful heel striking.
  3. Wearing less on your feet can strengthen the muscles and support you better as you run. The body automatically adapts and gets stronger (i.e. core, leg, ankle and foot).
  4. A shorter running stride typically develops which can lessen impact forces.

Books and research suggest that by helping you mimic the stride of a barefoot runner (i.e. gently landing on your mid or forefoot) minimally padded shoes may make you faster, more efficient, improved form and reduce the risk of injury. With claims like that a low drop shoe is worth trying right?

Have you ever run in or considered trying a minimalist running shoe? I would love to know your thoughts and experiences.

 

 

 

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21 Comments

  1. I’ve been a barefooter most of my life, have always hated shoes. I tend not to wear them unless I have to leave the house. I’ve spent most of my life pulling the padding out of the insides of my shoes, so I was thrilled when minimalist shoes came on the market. When I started walking for fitness, I was already wearing Fila Skeletoes, but now that I’m more active, I’ve started wearing the Altra Eves, which, without the removable footbed, has a 4.4mm drop. What I love about these, besides the comfort level, is that they don’t look like a running shoe, and I wear them everywhere.

  2. I tried several pairs and the latest vibrams I bought are my favorite. I wa shocked but that was the only minimalist type shoe, that didn’t give me any problem and I was able to run up to 5 miles within a few weeks. I like that you feel how you actually run and this totally helps to improve your running form. As long as you transition slowly and you feel good, I say GO for it 🙂

  3. You know you explained this much better than the guy at the running store did for me originally, I made the switch to the low drop when Saucony changed the original shoe version I liked:) I think low drop shoes are great for some people to try, but I tried the same shoe a few months back for a couple of marathons I was running, but unfortunately for me the shoe ended up giving me tedonitis in the backs of both of my ankles, and took several weeks or recovery to get rid of them. Fortunately, the running store when I explained the issue, they were awesome and said this happens to many distance runners who switch to the low drop shoes shoes, so they let me trade them in for a different brand:)

  4. Thank you for the explanation, I get overwhelmed by all the options sometimes. I’d love to check out a minimalist shoe when it’s time for some new ones.

    Have a great race this weekend!

  5. A year ago, I started to alter my running form by landing more on my mid foot. The slight Plantar fasciitis I was experiencing went away. Then I tore my ACL – after ACL reconstruction surgery in Feb, I couldn’t run in my old running shoes without serious knee pain, even with the mid foot strike. I bought a pair of Merrills (very similar to the Vibram Five Fingers) and I could run again. I even did an experiment one morning – ran with traditional running shoe, then switched to the barefoot style shoe – the discomfort level with the barefoot shoe was significantly less.
    Since then I bought the Brook Pure Connect as it has a little more support than the Merrills. I’ve run up to 9.5 miles without issues.
    I find I do have to think more about my form, and I’ve had to slowly build up the mileage. Great post!

    1. Shirley the difference continues to amaze me! I just returned from Runner’s World Half and Festival and as a blogger had the wonderful opportunity to go to an information session by Altra Zero Drop. The information just made so much sense. My roommate during the trip highly recommended the Brooks Pure Connect. So happy to hear you’re back running. Thanks for sharing this with me!

  6. I love my Saucony Kinvaras and even converted a bunch of friends to try them out. I find other traditional running shoes force my body to move in a funny way. I have a pair of the Saucony Mirage on the way right now to compare the two. Can’t wait to try them.

  7. I actually just recently decided to try a pair myself after a very similar background (years of being told I needed extra stability shoes). The shoes came in my favorite color combination, and I just couldn’t NOT try them 🙂 So far I have only used them for short runs, but I haven’t had any issues yet (fingers crossed). Hoping to incorporate them into my longer runs, so hopefully I can make the complete switch!

  8. The only running shoes I wear are Hoka OneOne. They saved my exercise life when I could barely walk without major pain – total opposite of minimalist but they are my love. We all have to find what works for us. 🙂

  9. Interesting. Minimalist shoes make me nervous, since I overpronate. However, I am intrigued to the possibility that they can correct issues and make you stronger. Still considering them:)

  10. This post came at the perfect time! I am looking into buying a minimalist shoe….but I’m worried. I have SUPA flat feet (I know, I know I should be wearing my orthodox) and I’m afraid that buying a shoe without much support could result in big blisters and end up hurting my feet. GAH. We will see…

  11. An 8mm drop is a smart way to ease in. I love the idea of minimalist shoes, but so far my body hasn’t responded very well. It’s so used to the cushion-y ones. I tried Pure Flows (4mm drop) and my Achilles was aching from the extra work. I would like to move in that direction, but would need to do it so slowly. Great info, you summarized it so well!

  12. I have the Vibram Five Fingers and I like them but I mostly wear them to walk around town. I do like how they feel when I go on short races but not sure how I would like them for long ones. I do want to find a minimalistic shoe that has a little stability and cushion, and I have a few that I am researching. Will definitely check these ones out!

  13. never heard of this. I actually have two completely different shoes. One that has a lotttttt of padding and then Reeboks that are sooooo light for crossfit and to tell you the truth I am definitely faster in my reeboks. However I don’t want to get in the habit of running in them all the time because there isn’t much support if my ankle turns the wrong way or something while in my other shoes I can take on anything!

  14. I’ve only ever tried one type of running shoe. I’d be open to try new ones to compare 🙂

  15. I am a minimalist runner and have been for a couple of years. My biggest shoe is 4mm drop (Brooks Pure Connect) and I have several pairs of zero drops. I also do some pure BF running. I will say that you need to understand just buying less shoe won’t change your form–that takes work. But once you’ve changed form along with shoes, the benefits are fabulous. My body has never been more ache and pain free than it has since making the changes. And that’s after 15 years of running!

    1. About the form? Thanks to my husband I realize what I need to do and that it will take practice. I may be contacting you with questions or for advice 🙂

  16. Yay, so exciting!! You have the exact same shoes, down to the color, that I run in. I LOVE Saucony, and I could wax poetic about the Omni 11s. I’ve never had any foot pain or knee problems running in them, they just make my feet feel good. I can’t wait to hear what you think of them!

  17. That’s fascinating! I haven’t tried them, but one day I would like to alternate with a lower drop. I’m definitely curious.

  18. Im not a runner but when I do—it’s in minimalist shoes.
    I am a minimalist shoe’er in ALL FACETS of life.
    lifting.
    any other workout etc.
    LIVING.
    and when I can–it at all possible :-)— Im barefoot.

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