Running Shoe Drop Explained

by | Updated on July 12, 2021
Running Shoe Drop Explained 1

Running shoe drop (or running shoe differential) is measured in mm between the heel and forefoot. For example, if your shoes have a heel/toe of 31 mm/21 mm, the running shoe drop is 10 mm.

But the heel-to-toe drop in a shoe won’t matter a lot if you are new to running. Instead, it would be best to focus more on getting your most comfortable running shoes (i.e., the shoes that can complement your natural running position).

But running shoe drop becomes more important if you have body pains or an injury that you want to protect while running. Plus, the right shoe differential is needed when changing running shoes or testing a new lineup to improve your running.

Running belongs to high-impact exercises that can make you burn up to 1,000 calories in just one hour of training. It has a lot of health benefits, which scientists believe have a link to longevity. But running requires stages of preparation. And before you can run without any issues, you need to have the right gear.

Here’s a similar article from Zappos regarding heel-to-toe drop: What Heel-to-Toe Drop Is, and Why It Matters.

Zero Drop Running Shoes

These are the shoes with an equal differential between the heel and the forefoot – 0 mm. But zero drop running shoes have cushioning (also called stack height) that ranges from minimalist to maximalist. If you’re a midfoot or forefoot striker, you can feel at home with zero drop running shoes. But they may require a transition. So if you are used to high drop running shoes, you need to reduce your mileage until your foot, ankle, Achilles, and calf can adjust.

Zero drop running shoes can empower your natural stride, strengthen your lower limb, and improve your running form. But they will make your foot, ankle, Achilles, and calf work. And it would help if you had more calf flexibility and ankle mobility for zero drop shoes. Although these shoes can help improve your tempo, if you have an injury in those lower limb regions, you may find the zero drop running shoes not so comfortable.

The 4 best examples of zero drop running shoes are:

  • Altra Torin 4.5 Plush
  • Altra Escalante 2.5
  • Altra Superior 4.5
  • inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V2

Zero drop running shoes are becoming fewer. And some became low drop running shoes.

Low Drop Running Shoes

Low drop running shoes have their heel cushioning slightly raised – 1-4 mm. Like the 0 mm differential, these low drop running shoes can have stack heights ranging from minimal to maximal. And if you find the 0 mm differential too much in the ankle and calf, a low drop running shoe is the next best thing to try.

In general, low drop running shoes are gentle on your knees and hips, but they require work on your feet, ankles, Achilles, and calves. These shoes can help improve your tempo. And if you’re a midfoot or forefoot striker, you can find haven on low drop running shoes. But you may find them less ideal if you have an injury in your foot, ankle, Achilles, or calf.

The 5 best examples of low drop running shoes are:

  • Hoka One One Bondi 7
  • New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo V4
  • New Balance Fresh Foam More v2
  • Saucony Endorphin Shift
  • Saucony Kinvara 12

Mid Drop Running Shoes

Mid drop running shoes have a 5-8 mm differential. If you are a heel striker, you’ll find the mid drop more suitable than low drop running shoes because the heel is further raised, which oftentimes means more stack height in there. Plus, today’s leading foam midsoles in this lineup are excellent in absorbing shock at heel strike.

Mid drop running shoes can have the right balance if you don’t want to put too much load on your foot, ankle, Achilles, and calf, as well as knee and hip. If you want to have the best support for heel strike at mid drop, go for the 8 mm drop.

The 5 best examples of mid drop running shoes are:

  • Brooks Revel 4
  • Hoka One One Clifton 7
  • Hoka One One Arahi 5
  • On Cloudflow
  • New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11

High Drop Running Shoes

High drop running shoes have the highest running shoe differential – 9-14 mm. These running shoes are more popular than low drop running shoes, an indication that they work for most runners. But not everyone can wear high drop running shoes.

In general, high drop running shoes are gentle on your foot, ankle, Achilles, and calf. So if you have pains or injury in these regions of the lower limb, you might have missed out on a good high drop shoe. But these shoes can load more pressure on your knees and hips and might not be ideal if you have issues in those parts of the body.

The 5 best examples of high drop running shoes are:

  • Brooks Ghost 13
  • Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21
  • ASICS GEL-Kayano 28
  • ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23
  • New Balance 840v4

Final Thoughts

If you are new to running, you don’t need to worry much about running shoe drop. Instead, focus on getting your most comfortable running shoes and follow the stages of running. But if you are changing footwear, trying out a new lineup of shoes, or having running-related problems, it’s time to dig in deeper and get the best running shoe drop for your feet.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is drop in running shoes?

Running shoe drop (or running shoe differential) is measured in mm between the heel and forefoot.

Is a high drop running shoe better for runners with posterior tibial tendonitis?

In general, a high drop running shoe (10-14 mm) redirects impact away from your foot and transfers pressure to your knee and hip. But today’s leading midsole foam is excellent in absorbing shock so that it won’t go to your body.

Do low drop running shoes cause hip injuries in long distance runners?

In general, low drop running shoes (1-4 mm) redirect impact away from your knee and hip. But they require more calf flexibility and ankle mobility.