WHAT DOES ZERO-DROP MEAN IN FOOTWEAR?

If you’re looking for a new pair of trail-running shoes, you may have come across the term zero drop.

Many running shoes have a heel-to-toe drop of 10–12 mm. However, everyday shoes can be greater than this. This means your foot is always at a slight downward angle.

Zero-drop footwear positions the heel and forefoot at the same height above the ground. This aims to imitate how your feet naturally lie when not wearing a shoe.

 

WHY WOULD I BUY A ZERO-DROP SHOE?

A zero-drop shoe encourages a low-impact landing during walking and running. It makes you land more towards the midfoot and less on the heel. This may make your running gait more natural, strengthen your feet and improve your posture. It may also help with certain types of foot and leg injuries.

Zero-drop footwear isn’t for everyone though, especially if you have an underlying condition. If you strike your heel heavily when running or have overly tight calves, a zero-drop shoe may not work well for you. We recommend spending some time training to prepare yourself for the transition.

If you are unsure whether a zero-drop style is right for you please talk a podiatrist or other medical professional to see if a zero-drop running shoe is right for you.

 

WHAT CAN I DO TO TRANSITION INTO A ZERO-DROP SHOE?

Your legs and feet will need to adapt to wearing a zero-drop shoe. Many people notice soreness in their calf muscles, Achilles and feet at first. This is usually because your legs are used to wearing shoes with a large heel-to-toe drop. Running in zero-drop footwear activates your lower legs differently and changes how your feet hit the ground. Your muscles and tendons need to adapt to this change, so expect some discomfort until you adjust to this new way of moving.

Getting used to a pair of zero-drop shoes can take several weeks. Give yourself time to adapt to your new footwear and strengthen your legs and feet. Don’t tackle any long-distance runs immediately, or you’re likely to feel some soreness. The transition may be challenging, but take your time and help your legs make the change.

 

Here’s a guide to help you start running in your new zero-drop shoes.

  • Start by wearing your new shoes around the house for a few days.
  • Then go outside for longer walks, working your way up to an hour each time.
  • When your new footwear feels comfortable, take some short runs.
  • Gradually build up your distance before you hit the trail for longer runs.
  • Do plenty of calf stretches and foot exercises.
  • Frequently switch back to your old shoes.
  • If you’re feeling really sore, decrease your distance or intensity.

 

The transition process takes most people a month. It may take longer if you choose zero-drop shoes with minimal cushioning.

Pre-existing leg or foot conditions will also need time to adapt. Consult a medical professional for guidance to help you change to zero-drop footwear.

You might find the change easier if you start with some zero-drop hiking or everyday shoes, and then progress to running shoes. If you race, consider transitioning during the off-season so you don’t jeopardise your training regime.

Once you start running in your zero-drop footwear, you may also find your posture and running technique need adjusting. Practice landing on your midfoot, straightening your back and improving your arm movements.

For more information about running in zero-drop shoes, visit Altra’s Run Better page.

 

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