What is zero drop in running shoes and how does it help with a runner’s performance? What are the different benefits that it can bring to this continually evolving sport that triumphs the peak of human agility and the primal need for speed?
There are so many questions that are floating around the vast web regarding this new development in running shoes where drops are eliminated to create a more natural way of moving. This not only generates questions but apparently, there are some benefits to using these so-called zero drop running shoes as well.
Before looking into the future, have a brief glimpse into the history of running and the footwear that is well-beloved no matter what culture you run aground with.
Evolution of Running Footwear
Running, as a sport, remains the same in principle with only the equipment and rules revolving around changing as fast as the seasons come and go. Focusing on footwear alone means seeing new models with more advanced manufacturing techniques and features integrated into the overall design, all of which come out usually at least once a month.
Running footwear started with nothing but the soles on your feet which then evolved into leather sandals made running much more bearable. Running sandals became the footwear of choice for runners until the introduction of vulcanizing techniques during the 1800s.
This particular development saw the release of rubber soled shoes which started off as being ungainly and hard to slide in. However, this did not stop shoe pioneers into developing better shoes with better features that help with a runner’s performance, mainly through feet support and not because of actual performance enhancement.
Modern shoe designs have included smarter features, increasing the wearer’s connectivity with people around them while remaining visible, especially while running in secluded areas and dangerous roads. Meanwhile, simple improvements to existing features and how they are integrated into the overall design make up the bulk of what’s new in recent models. This includes the way soles and the whole shoe frame are designed.
What Is Zero Drop in Running Shoes?
Zero Drop in running shoes is the alignment of the sole coming from the ball of the foot moving towards your heel, meaning both the heel and the ball have the same height measured from the ground. The term “zero drop” literally means that there is no drop coming from the heel to your toes.
This how your foot is naturally aligned and is a great variation from traditional shoe designs where there is a slight difference in height. This height difference gives traditional running shoes the appearance of being a high-heeled shoe.
Why Should Heel to Toe Drops Matter?
Heel to toe drops help dictate the way your feet strike the pavement with each step. Some would prefer high-heeled running shoes, especially when racing as it helps propel you forward while others would go for one with a high midsole for longer endurance. With all these talks about zero drops in shoes and what-not, what is zero drop in running shoes doing differently than other traditional running designs?
- Gives a Natural Feel
Zero drop running shoes emulate running sandals which are essentially the first running footwear that man has created. This means that regardless of what rubber is between your feet and the ground, you would feel more natural movements since you are running as to how your ancestors would have run a few centuries ago.
Zero drop running shoes can also be more comfortable than other shoes especially since the design is built around comfort ensuring that you get the stability that you need.
- Reduces the Risk of Injury
Shoes with a high heel to toe drops encourage heel striking which can play a major factor when it comes to analyzing sports-related knee injuries. Higher heels also mean that you are constantly being pushed to be in a more forward position which can wreak havoc towards your body’s natural alignment and cause even greater injury.
Other injuries that are said to be prevented by using zero drop running shoes include pains in the waist and lower back, as well as foot pain and knee injuries. Zero drop shoes are said to take away the strain from the knee area and spread it around the calf muscles, adding to the reduction of risk when it comes to injuries.
- Spreads the Movement Around
As previously mentioned, zero drop running shoes are said to move the normal pressure away from the knees and spread it around to lessen the risk of injury. This effectively transforms you calf muscle into a shock absorber that directly intercepts the pressure from the stride and evenly distributes the movement of pressure all around.
The flat design of the zero drop shoe ensures that every part of your foot gets to land firmly on the ground, spreading the initial shock before transferring it to the calf muscles and knees. This also lets your feet move more freely as compared with high-heeled running shoes that keep your foot aligned a certain way, encouraging more heel strikes than what is needed.
- Lighter Footwear
Zero drop running shoes are the outcome of minimalist design, and this means that less material is used to create each shoe, giving you lighter footwear that helps you maintain your speed and increases your endurance. This is especially true in competitive running where you are expected to travel faster and survive long distance runs. This minimalist footwear ensures that you get to your destination without sacrificing the comfort that traditional running shoe design comes with.
- Better Stability and Makes You Go Zoom
Zero drop running shoes allow you to place your heel and toes at a more natural position, like using running sandals, and this natural stance gives you better stability and allows you to achieve faster speeds as compared to traditional running shoes. The natural stance and the natural feeling that you can get with every step may encourage your body to adapt better, which may give you better performance than expected.
Transitioning to Zero Drop Running Shoes
Zero drop running shoes may have piqued your interest by now, but always consider that different shoe designs can affect your performance regardless of the heel-to-toe drop height. Each person has their take about running and what shoes should matter but if you are already set in getting a zero drop running shoe, then make sure to transition to using it gradually.
You may be thinking that a simple heel-to-toe height drop is basic, and no transition is needed, but you are wrong about that. If you have spent your life running with a substantial heel-to-toe height, then you might need more time to adjust than most.
What you need to do is to use zero drop running shoes during training runs at least once a week, trading in one or two days of running with your regular shoes. You then gradually trade in more days until you truly feel comfortable running with zero drop shoes.
The time between the initial set of runs and full integration may take months as it takes more than just changing your shoes. You would need to rewire your brain’s impression of how you run and how your body reacts to these signals coming from the brain. It can be compared to writing with your right hand and then being forced to write with your left, so be patient with yourself and think that some may never fully transition into using zero drop running shoes.
Many research studies have been done to support and contradict previously released papers on which kind of running shoes should benefit who, but they all appear to have the same claims for the same benefits that it is sometimes hard to decide which pair to get.
Zero drop shoes are more for the minimalist at heart who care more about the weight embracing their feet and how this feeling of lightness can help with their performance than with the assistance they would get from the shoe itself.