Choosing the drop of a running shoe: how to do it?

Choosing the drop of a running shoe

The drop of a shoe is a crucial criterion for selecting the running shoe that best suits your needs. This concept gained popularity with the minimalist shoe trend. Nowadays, runners increasingly consider this criterion when selecting their future running shoes. Let’s explore what this term encompasses and how to choose the appropriate drop for your next pair of shoes.

The definition of shoe drop

The drop of a shoe refers to the height difference between the heel and the forefoot. To illustrate, consider two extremes: the stiletto heel and the minimalist shoe. A stiletto’s heel, for instance, can range from 6 to 8 centimeters in height, equating to a drop of 60 to 80 millimeters. Clearly, stilettos are impractical for running 😉

In contrast, a minimalist shoe features a zero-millimeter drop, offering minimal cushioning. However, the definition of a minimalist shoe doesn’t stop at the drop. Other factors include the cushioning height, both longitudinal and torsional flexibility, weight, and stability technologies incorporated. A shoe becomes more minimalist if it offers less “guidance” during a stride.

Most manufacturers of running shoes produce models with a drop ranging from 0 to 10 millimeters, typically measured in a size 43 (EU) since the drop varies with shoe size. Larger shoes will have a greater height difference.

It’s also important to note that there is no standardized method for measuring drop, leading to variations of 1 to 2 millimeters between different brands. This variability is akin to the differences observed in shoe sizing, which also slightly varies across brands and sizing standards (EUR, US, UK, JPN, etc.).

What influence does shoe drop have on a runner’s stride?

The impact on stride

Regarding performance, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest an inherent advantage of either a low or high drop in running shoes. However, the drop height can significantly affect a runner’s stride biomechanics. A higher drop tends to encourage a heel-striking pattern, whereas a lower drop shoe fosters a more “natural” stride, characterized by midfoot or forefoot striking. Although no stride pattern is universally ideal, experts often recommend beginners start with a low drop shoe to help adopt a proper running posture from the outset.

It’s important to recognize that running in low drop shoes engages the posterior chain of the legs more intensely, including the muscles and fascia of the foot. Strengthening these areas can benefit from this, but transitioning too quickly to lower drop shoes without proper adjustment also poses a strain risk.

Choosing the right shoe drop if you’re prone to injuries

If injuries are a frequent setback for you, or if you’re currently recovering from one, considering a change in your running shoes, including their wear and drop, might be beneficial.

For recurring knee injuries

Knee injuries can often be attributed to a pronounced heel strike, a tendency to lean too far back while running, or weaknesses in the posterior chain. In such cases, transitioning to a shoe with a lower drop might be advantageous, as it encourages a more balanced running posture. This should ideally be complemented with proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) exercises to enhance the effectiveness of the posture correction.

Adopting a shoe with a slightly lower drop—while ensuring a gradual increase in your training intensity after an injury—can be a strategic move. During this period, it’s also advisable to engage in exercises aimed at strengthening your calves and tendons. For instance, foot rolling exercises can be particularly helpful.

While transitioning to a lower drop shoe, you may notice some discomfort in your calves or Achilles tendons due to the increased stress. However, this adjustment period can ultimately lead to relief for your knees. Moreover, alternating between two different shoe models can provide varied support and reduce the risk of overuse injuries.

Managing recurring injuries to calves or achilles tendons with shoe drop

If you find yourself frequently dealing with injuries to your calves or Achilles tendons, such as tendinitis, or experiencing pain under the arch of your foot, considering a running shoe with a higher drop might be beneficial. A higher drop can alleviate some of the stress on your posterior chain, providing relief to these affected areas.

Using a higher drop shoe can serve as a temporary solution to reduce discomfort and inflammation. As these areas begin to heal and become less inflamed, it presents an excellent opportunity to gradually strengthen them. This preparation can facilitate a smoother transition back to shoes with a lower drop in the future, aiming for a balance between comfort and a natural running posture.

Finding the right shoe for you

Shoe drops can be categorized into three main classifications: low (0 to 4mm), medium (5 to 8mm), and high (above 9mm).

For those interested in zero-drop shoes, Altra is a notable brand that consistently offers this feature across all its models, such as the Altra Rivera and the Altra Lone Peak. Unlike minimalist shoes, such as the Five Fingers, Altras provide ample cushioning suitable for runners up to 80kg, thanks to a sole height of approximately 25mm. This approach, known as Balanced Cushioning, is a hallmark of Altra’s design philosophy.

This guide aims to offer further insights into the factors you should consider when selecting the ideal pair of running shoes tailored to your needs.

Additionally, if your interests lie in trail running shoes or you’re curious about carbon-plated shoes, which generally feature a high drop, there are specific considerations to keep in mind. Carbon shoes are designed to enhance running speed, but it’s worth noting that many models may significantly change your stride. If you plan to use them in competitive settings, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the model by testing it during several training sessions to ensure compatibility with your running style.

Shoe comparison tool

For a tailored shoe selection based on various criteria, the I-Run shoe comparison tool is an invaluable resource. It enables you to compare models that best match your running habits and preferences.

Additionally, when shopping, remember to apply the promo code IRUN15 at checkout to enjoy a 15% discount on new arrivals.

By utilizing the link provided to access the I-Run tool, the price you pay remains unchanged, while it also enables us to earn an affiliate commission. This support is instrumental for RunMotion Coach, proud of its technical development being 100% made in France.

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Mailis Durif-VarambonMailis grew up in the mountains, where she went hiking and biking every weekend. She loves outdoor activities where she can relax at the end of the day. At RunMotion Coach, she is responsible for communication management.