Do you suffer from knee pain when running and hate the traditional running shoe with a rigid heel counter? If so, don’t worry! These shoes offer the perfect solution!
This post will give you a rundown on what zero drop shoes are and how they can increase performance and prevent injury. It will also provide a short-list of some of the things to look for when you’re buying your first pair.
What is a Zero Drop Shoe?
A zero drop shoe is a shoe that has a heel height of 0mm (no drop) or close to 0 mm. This means that the heel does not stick up as high as it would in a traditional running shoe, which usually has an 8-12mm drop from the heel to the front.
What do I mean by drop? When you’re looking at running shoes, two numbers separated by a slash are often given. The first number refers to the heel height. The second number refers to the forefoot height.
The drop is the difference between these numbers. So if the heel of a shoe is 10 mm and the forefoot is 8 mm, then that shoe has a 10-8mm drop. (10-12mm in metric, or 10-8cm in American).
The 10 Benefits of Zero Drop Shoes
1) Less Knee Pain
By reducing the height of the heel, zero drop shoes spread out the pressure of running. This means that there is more room for your toes to splay and for your knees to move slightly inward when you run. The reduced height also means that you land with less force on your heels, thus reducing stress on knee ligaments.
Additionally, by reducing the heel height you’re encouraging a mid or forefoot strike, meaning that you hit the ground with your foot closer to the front of your body. This is the preferred running gait and landing area, as it reduces impact and ground reaction forces.
2) Lower Injury Risk
Studies have shown that a 0mm heel height can reduce injuries for the following reasons:
a) Lower impact forces. Overall, the higher impact forces from a shoe with a 12mm drop would be more than those from a zero drop shoe. The increased peak loading is caused by the fact that your heel bones are closer to the ground in a traditional running shoe and your body weight is also greater in traditional shoes as we reach heel landing.
b) Lower stress on joints and tendons. The added cushioning in a traditional running shoe forces your foot to move in a way that it’s not designed to, resulting in increased loads on your joints and muscles. Zero drop shoes, however, don’t have added cushioning so you’ll be running more naturally on the balls of your feet.
c) More efficient cadence. Running with zero drop shoes encourages a mid or forefoot strike pattern. Using a mid or forefoot strike is more efficient than heel striking and will engage your glutes, quads and calves more as you’re pushing off from the ground.
4) Lower Energy Cost
Running shoes with a 12mm heel drop will cause your knees to bend much deeper than in a zero drop shoe. This means that you’ll spend more energy just to get back up to running speed after each step.
Additionally, you’ll be putting much more strain on your calves, in particular if the heel has a thick cushion in it. Though the impact and stress on your legs is minimal, once you add up all these little things it can amount to a lot of pain!
5) Improved Running Economy
You’ll also experience better running economy with a zero drop shoe. Because of the way we run our feet in traditional shoes, we tend to strike with vertical force as we land from our heel strikes. This means that we’re wasting energy and putting unnecessary strain on our legs.
With a zero drop shoe, you’ll be able to land more naturally in a forefoot or mid strike, using your glutes and quads much more efficiently. This increases running economy over time.
6) Reduced Risk of Shin Splints
Shin splints are caused by an excessive inward stress on our shins when we run with a traditional heel drop running shoe. This occurs because our heel is landing in a knee tuck position as we run, causing our knees to bend even further and put more stress on the tendons and muscles of our lower legs.
By reducing the heel height of your shoe to 0mm, you’re forcing your foot to land with an excessive outward force on those same tendons and muscles. This is a much safer way to run and can help prevent shin splints from occurring in the first place.
7) Improved Speed and Running Efficiency
Many runners will say that zero drop shoes make their running shorter by 5-10 seconds per mile, resulting in a faster time. Zero drop shoes will not only increase your speed but also give you better efficiency as you run. This is because they encourage a more natural running gait, and thus better running economy (see No. 4).
8) Increased Running Range of Motion (ROM)
The higher the running shoe heel, the more stress it puts on your knee ligaments. This means that you’ll be subjected to greater stresses and pain in the front of your knee area after running.
By reducing the heel height, you’re forcing your foot to land in a different way, putting less stress on those same ligaments. This means that you’ll have greater ROM and a less painful run after running.
9) Increased Agility and Quickness in Your Steps
A higher heel increases the distance your foot travels when you toe off. This means that each step will be longer, taking away a bit of your quickness and agility in your steps. This leads to a less efficient running gait, which can also cause a lack of coordination.
Running with zero drop shoes helps encourage a more efficient running gait and will help you become just as nimble in your step as you would be in bare feet. This ultimately results in better coordination.
10) Greater Balance and Improved Body Awareness
All of the previous reasons are all connected to this one. The more natural way we run in zero drop shoes will force you to engage your core muscles more and increase your overall body awareness.
Because of this, you’ll automatically become more balanced and have better posture.
To Sum Up!
Running in zero drop shoes is always the preferred choice of running shoes. Not only will you get faster, but you’ll also reduce stress and pain in your body as well as improve your running technique.
If you’re looking to purchase new running shoes, look for a zero drop model with enough cushioning to support your needs. You’ll be able to see the difference within a couple of weeks.
Do you run in zero drop shoes or minimalist shoes? I would love to hear your feedback and experiences below!
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