7 Best Zero Drop Running Shoes in 2023

Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic on
7 Best Zero Drop Running Shoes in 2023
We earn affiliate commissions at no extra cost to you when you buy through us. Why trust us

Running in zero-drop running shoes is great BUT under a few conditions: you know why you’re doing it and what to expect. Learn more in this guide so you can make an informed decision. Reading Born to run is simply not enough (but is highly motivating, yes!).

We are also zero-drop shoe fans here at RunRepeat and we have gathered over 30 models to test them out and find the best performers. And though many associate zero with minimalism, that’s not necessarily the case. We’ve got some well-cushioned Altra shoes in our top picks below.

If you’re not sure about which heel-to-toe drop you need and the effects it might have on your body and running, read our in-depth guide on the heel-to-toe drop

Best zero-drop running shoes overall

Altra Outroad

What makes it the best?

When it comes to the best zero drop shoe for running out and off the road, look no further than the Altra Outroad. Dad jokes aside, we have to commend the versatility of this shoe that tackled all of our test runs with ease, even when taking it on-road! It’s a true one-and-done shoe for all occasions. 

The Outroad’s lugs are 1.2 mm shorter than average at only 2.3 mm according to our caliper measurements. Nevertheless, their shape and configuration meant that we were able to bite into and get good traction over any surface; be it dirt, gravel, or grass. Moreover, the subtle size of the lugs means that the Outroad doesn’t feel too blocky on the pavement, making it a perfect door-to-trail shoe. 

Tipping the scale at 10.12 oz (287g), the Outroad is only 0.32 oz (9g) lighter than the average trail shoe but feels even lighter underfoot. This is thanks in part to the lively midsole which, while on the firmer side with a durometer reading of 29.8 HA, provides a ride that feels well-cushioned and responsive. Whether we took the shoe out for an easy recovery day, a speedy tempo session, or a drawn-out long distance effort, the Outroad never failed to impress. 

Performing our stiffness test after leaving the shoe in the freezer for twenty minutes reveals that the Outroad stiffens up by 71.3% when exposed to the cold. This is much stiffer than the average shoe becomes under similar conditions, and means that we don’t recommend the Outroad to runners living in cold climates looking to conquer snowy trails. 


  • Great on roads and trails
  • Pliable upper
  • Amazing outsole durability
  • Comfy padding
  • Less bulky than other Altras
  • Low stack
  • Doubles as a traveling shoe
  • Appealing design


  • Toebox is not Altra-wide
  • Breaking-in needed
Full review of Altra Outroad

Best zero-drop trail running shoes

What makes it the best?

Among all the shoes we tested and ran in, Lone Peak 7 is our top zero-drop trail shoe. Equipped with a grippy outsole and a low-to-the-ground, flexible nature, it helps us tackle technical trails with ease and confidence.

We feel secure the shoe remains resilient on any slope or pavement with its solid traction. Its 3.4-mm deep lugs bite through dirt and mud, keeping us steady no matter how fast we run. Its lug pattern acts as brakes during steep descents, allowing us to stay in control.

LP7’s almost non-existent 0.2-mm drop stands 97.4% lower than average. It promotes a more natural running feel, keeps our feet planted to the ground and prevents the ankles from rolling in. Together with its wide, squared toebox, it enhances stability by allowing a more natural toe-splay upon landing. These features also improve our sense of control.

Navigating through uneven grounds feels effortless as the flexible midsole promotes agility. It adapts to our movement with less resistance. Our durometer measurement confirms this as the LP7 emerged 21.4% more flexible than the average of lab-tested trail shoes.

The upper isn’t the breeziest option, scoring below average on our breathability test. We don't recommend this pair for hot and humid days.


  • Very wide toebox
  • Protective midsole
  • Superb lockdown
  • Super grippy outsole
  • Excellent for fast runs in the mountains
  • Added heel cup provides stability
  • Super comfy
  • Easy to clean


  • Colorways might be a downer
  • A bit pricey
Full review of Altra Lone Peak 7

Best zero-drop running shoes for long distance

What makes it the best?

The VIA Altra Olympus shoe has plentiful cushioning and impact protection to withstand multiple miles while also providing immense comfort and a smooth ride, which is why it's our top zero drop shoe for long distances.

While the VIA Olympus' 34.2 mm heel stack is just over the road running shoe average, its forefoot is abundantly cushioned with 32.6 mm of midsole stack, which is 32.5% more than usual. That tall stack does a terrific job of absorbing impact during our long runs.

The premium-feeling upper is an absolute pleasure to run in. Our feet were surrounded with plush padding, particularly on the tongue, which we measured to be 1.7 mm thicker than the average. And the ride of the VIA Olympus was nice and smooth thanks to its rocker geometry, which allowed us to cruise along at easier paces.

However, the VIA Olympus' midsole softness, which we measured at 25.6 HA, is more balanced than it is pillowy soft. So, those looking for a shoe that can provide cloud-like comfort during long-distance runs should look elsewhere.


  • Comfortable and premium-feeling upper
  • Roomy, unmistakably-Altra fit
  • Secure lockdown even for narrow feet
  • Smooth and responsive ride
  • Good for any distance at an easy pace
  • Effective, but not obtrusive, rocker
  • Copious amount of padding
  • Breathable
  • Absorbs impact well


  • Cushioning on the firm side, but a toss-up on how firm
  • Doesn’t feel like a zero-drop shoe
  • Substantial break-in period
  • On the heavier side
Full review of Altra VIA Olympus

Best zero-drop running shoes for stability

What makes it the best?

The Altra Provision 6 is our top zero-drop stability shoe as it can provide the absolute perfect amount of support through its impressive adjustable stability system. Meanwhile, its light weight and great grip make it a strong daily trainer as well.

The Provision 6's stability system caught us a bit by surprise and took some time to figure out how exactly it worked. But its adjustable overpronation control worked like a charm, as we got the right kind of support after some playing around with the laces.

The lack of more conventional stability elements is a big reason why the Provision 6 is a surprisingly light shoe. At 9.14 oz (259g), it is 11% lighter than the average stability road shoe, so it didn't weigh us down during our daily runs. Moreover, the Provision 6 provides excellent impact protection thanks to its 29.2 mm forefoot stack, which is 5 mm more than the average running shoe.

The outsole is also a standout feature of the shoe. We measured the outsole to be 29.1% softer than average, but that softer rubber helps deliver excellent traction that kept us securely stuck on both wet and dry tarmac alike.

However, the Provision 6 is a particularly firm shoe whose midsole softness is 49.0 HA, exactly two times as hard as the average road shoe. So those looking for a zero-drop shoe with a more forgiving midsole should look elsewhere.


  • Fits true to size
  • Very light for a stability shoe
  • Great for wider feet
  • Ingenious stability system
  • Incredible grip
  • More stability in the outsole
  • Good cushioning for a zero drop shoe
  • Great to have in a rotation
  • Good durability
  • Consistent flex in all conditions


  • Forefoot may be too wide for some
  • Getting a good heel lock can be hard
  • Orthotics may not fit properly
Full review of Altra Provision 6

Best zero-drop daily running shoes

What makes it the best?

Paradigm 7 shines as a light go-to pair that gives great ground feel, comfort, and flexibility to move around. It has some stability features for added support and is very accommodating for all-day wear. Our lab and run tests cement Paradigm 7 as our best daily trainer among zero-drop running shoes.

Paradigm 7 stays true to Altra’s zero-drop branding, with an almost non-existent 0.1 mm drop. Its 27.6/27.5 mm stack, combined with its Innerflex technology, makes it ideal for midfoot to forefoot strikers. This utilizes cuts in the midsole to allow the foot to flex naturally. Its flexible nature makes it easier to maneuver, emerging 28.9% more adaptive than average.

Even with its lower stack, the Ego Max cushioning feels comfy without being overly soft. This enhances stability because we don’t bottom out. Our durometer confirms its velvet touch, measuring 18.8% softer than average.

Paradigm 7 feels airy and fresh with its light 9.3 oz (264g) weight vs. the 9.5 oz (268g) average. Its upper contains large ventilation holes with a thin fabric underneath for comfort. On our breathability test, it scored an impressive 5/5.

This isn’t the best option for speed-running as it lacks the energy return to sustain fast paces.


  • Exceptional space for toe splay
  • Highly stable and supportive
  • Really light
  • Features Ego Max foam for added comfort
  • Innerflex technology promotes natural midfoot striking
  • Outstanding durability
  • Versatile for walking or gym use
  • Genuine zero-drop design!


  • Becomes uncomfortably firm and stiff in cold weather
  • Priced on the higher end of the spectrum at $170
  • Not suitable for fast-paced running
Full review of Altra Paradigm 7

Zero-drop running shoes with the best cushioning

Altra Olympus 5

What makes it the best?

The Altra Olympus 5 is one of the best zero-drop trail shoes money can buy, with its supreme cushioning in the forefoot as well as the heel, and its impressive grip on wet and dry surfaces. Add its excellent energy return to the equation, and it easily takes the cake as our top zero-drop trail shoe. 

The Olympus 5's outsole has an outstanding grip that inspires a lot of confidence and security with each step. Whether we were running on wet or dry trails, the outsole did its job and stuck to the surface.

The shoe also absolutely crushes it in the cushioning department. Its heel stack is 2 mm taller than the average trail shoe, while the forefoot is a massive 6.1 mm taller. That ample amount of foam helps keep our legs well-protected on the trails. Meanwhile, the midsole is 21% softer than the average, providing a magnificently comfortable experience even on long-distance treks.

More than being soft and comfy, that midsole is also quite responsive. We felt that it had a lot of energy return, which added more excitement to our runs. 

However, the Olympus 5 is quite a heavy shoe at 11.46 oz (325g), which is 10% heavier than the average trail shoe. So those looking for a more lightweight trail shoe should consider other options.


  • Grippy on wet and dry trails
  • Protective muscles
  • Comfort is a 10/10
  • Toe box welcomes wide feet
  • Gives out energy
  • Breathable
  • Stable ride
  • Heel lockdown is terrific!
  • Easy on and off


  • Durability couldn't be worse
  • Annoying lace bites
  • It's a splurge
Full review of Altra Olympus 5

Best zero-drop speed training shoes

What makes it the best?

Suffering from a need for speed? Well the Altra Escalante 3 has the cure for what ails you. This zippy shoe, with its smooth and natural ride, raced it way into our hearts and up the ranks as the best zero drop speed-trainer

The Escalante 3’s midsole is the star of the show, with its 25 mm stack giving us a good amount of ground feel and a natural ride reminiscent of old-school trainers. Meanwhile, the foam itself, which gives us an average softness reading of 23.8 HA, did a good job of dampening impact even as we pounded the pavement hard during our high-paced sessions. Besides the protective cushioning, the midsole also has a nice, energetic rebound that makes accelerating in the Escalante 3 feel like a breeze. 

The Escalante 3 reminds us that being fast and flexible aren’t mutually exclusive. With only 25.7N of force needed to bend the shoe 90 degrees in our stiffness test, the Escalante 3 is 15.7% more flexible than the average shoe. This level of flexibility allows the shoe to comfortably conform with the movement of our feet rather than resisting and leaving them feeling beaten up post-run. 

The aforementioned flexibility of the shoe takes a severe hit in the cold. After leaving it in the freezer for twenty minutes, we found that 54.3N was now needed to bend the shoe to the same point. This 111.1%  increase in stiffness means that the Escalante 3 will feel less comfortable and more akin to a carbon-plated shoe during winter runs. 


  • Comfy all-day
  • Responsive ride
  • Allows ground feel
  • Delivers planted strides
  • Grippy on both road and light trail
  • Supportive fit
  • Very spacious toe box
  • Built like a tank
  • Great for the gym & walking


  • Heavier than before
  • Tight midfoot for wide feet
Full review of Altra Escalante 3

Comparison of the 7 best zero drop running shoes

+ + Add a product
+ + Add a product
+ + Add a product
+ + Add a product
+ + Add a product
+ + Add a product
+ + Add a product
+ + Add a product
Users rating
Best price
# of colorways

What are zero drop running shoes

As the name suggests, these shoes have a heel drop of 0mm. That means there is no height difference between the heel and the forefoot.


Example of a zero-drop running shoe cut in half

The moment you put zero drop shoes on for the first time, they might even feel like they have a negative heel drop. It’s all good, nothing is wrong with the shoe (even though you’ll see dozens of reviews hating the shoes because of this). It just takes time to get used to them. 

If this is your first time hearing about zero drop in running shoes, it might not sound like a big deal, but it actually is. The majority of running shoes (92%) are outside of the zero-drop category. An unofficial standard is 10mm. 

Heel drop vs. stack height

While the heel-to-toe drop might be zero, that doesn’t mean that the shoes are flat and close to the ground. That’s when stack height enters the scene. 

Stack height is the amount of material placed between your feet and the ground. The more cushioning you look for in running shoes, the higher the stack height is. It’s not related to heel drop.

Difference between heel drop and stack height

4 things to consider when buying zero drop running shoes

If you’re looking for a zero-drop running shoe, chances are you’re not a beginner. So we’ll skip the obvious advice for buying running shoes and focus on that which is specific for zero-drop running shoes. 

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before buying zero drop running shoes: 

1. How much cushioning do I need? 

This is directly related to how much a) ground feel you like and b) softness you enjoy. With more cushioning, there’s more comfort, more weight, and less ground feel.


Merrel Vapor Glove 4 (barefoot zero-drop, no shoe feel, feeling every tiny bump) vs Altra Superior 4.5 (minimalist zero-drop, mid cushioning that allows for both shoe and ground feel)

Keep in mind that some shoes, like Merrel Vapor Gloves, are so flat that even walking on concrete in them might hurt your feet. But they do wonders on soft trails. 

If this is your first trip to the zero-drop world, maybe leave the minimally cushioned shoes for later - to give your feet time to adjust to the new heel drop first. Either way, take it slowly.

2. What’s my running strike? 

This question is tightly related to the stack height and how much cushioning you need underneath your feet. While running, do you land on your toes (forefoot strike), midfoot, or heel (heel strike)? 

Forefoot, midfoot and rearfoot strike

It’s not a written rule, but experience has shown that minimal or really low stack height is more friendly towards forefoot- and midfoot strikers. This is because heel strikers don’t get enough cushion while landing and might end up hurting their feet or ending the run abruptly.

Example of a midfoot strike

Heel strikers appreciate higher-stacked running shoes. Either way, take it slowly. 

Stack height vs. running strike in zero drop running shoes
  Minimal stack height Medium and maximal stack height
Stack height values 0-12mm 13-33mm
Recommended foot strike Best for forefoot and midfoot strikers All, but heel strikers appreciate high stack the most
Brands to look at Merrell, Vibram Five Fingers, Vivobarefoot, Xero Altra

3. Do I need arch support?

Not all zero-drop shoes are completely flat and supportless. Some come with cushion and arch support and the most famous among them are Altra zero drop running shoes. The moment you put them on, you’ll feel an arch-shaped cushioned bottom. 

Arch shaped support inside a shoe

Visible arch-shaped support inside an Altra shoe.

However, if you prefer completely flat running shoes with no support features, brands like Vibram Five Fingers, Vivobarefoot, Xero are worth checking out. Either way, take it slowly. 

4. Which fit do I prefer?

Zero drop running shoes have the most options when it comes to the width of the shoes and toebox design. 

First, it all started with the idea that zero-drop running shoes will resemble barefoot running. Then those shoes got a bit of stack, a bit of support, and today there are even maximalist running shoes with a heel to toe drop of 0mm. 

Next to the regular options found in the rest of the running world, these are specific to zero-drop only: 

  • Vibram Five Fingers. Might look weird at first, but people swear by them. Basically, every toe has a pocket of its own. 
  • Foot-shaped shoes. These running shoes actually resemble the shape of your feet - toebox are wide, enough to wiggle your toes, and they don’t feel like your feet need to adjust to a design. It’s vice versa. Altra has trademarked this design. 

Either way, take it slowly. 

The difference between barefoot, zero drop and minimalist running shoes

To once and for all distinguish these categories. 

Minimalist, barefoot and zero drop running shoes

In the realm of running shoes, there are minimalist running shoes - shoes that need to satisfy a certain set of criteria. Zero-drop shoes may or may not be minimalist shoes, simply because heel to toe drop is only one out of 5 factors counting in the minimalist index. And all barefoot shoes are zero-drop shoes. They are minimalist of the minimalist. Pure logic dictates that barefoot humans have no heel drop. 

Barefoot running shoes offer the best ground feel.


Example of a barefoot running shoe Merrell Vapor Glove 4

Nothing else is exact because most of the benefits depend on the stack height which varies both in zero drop and minimalist running shoes. 

Are zero-drop shoes bad for your knees?

Depends. While low-drop running shoes affect lower leg muscles, that doesn’t mean they are bad for knees or any other part of the body. 

This study has shown that zero-drop shoes can be a great alternative for women with knee pain or weakness. This study has gone on to show that heel drop did not affect the injury risk in 553 runners (after a 6-month follow-up). 

Transitioning to a zero drop running shoe

Transitioning period when going from a higher drop to a zero drop is a must. Take it seriously, take it slowly. 

Here are a few facts to help you understand it:

  • The bigger the difference in the drop, the longer the transition period should be. Consider doing it in steps, e.g. getting shoes with a 4mm difference in the drop, not 8 or 10mm. 
  • By changing the drop, you are changing the muscles that will work more while running. Lower drop [1 in the table below] asks for ankle, foot muscles, calves and Achilles to work more. Sometimes they are not ready and need more time to adapt. Higher drop [2 in the table] activates knees and hip muscles more.
Low High
Lower leg muscles impacted by a heel drop Higher leg muscles impacted by a heel drop
  • It will help if you start slowly. If there’s no pain, use your shoes every day at short distances, even if it’s only going to the grocery store. Slowly, up the ante. The moment you feel pain during or after the run, rest and don’t put on the same shoes again until you’re feeling ok. It should not come to that, ideally, at all. 

How long it takes to transition to a zero-drop shoe completely? 

For some, it’s 2 months. For other people, we’re talking about 1 year of slowly transitioning. As this study has shown, 10-week usually is not enough. 

It’s completely individual and depends on a few factors:

  • Your overall health and the strength of your leg muscles,
  • Previous injuries, 
  • The difference in heel drop (it takes more time to go from 10mm to 0mm than from 4mm to 0mm),
  • Whether you follow the transitioning guidelines and listen to your body,
  • The amount of cushioning (cushioned zero-drop shoes are easier on the feet than completely flat running shoes that allow you to feel every little rock, crack, leaf underneath them). 

This doesn’t mean you should run only in zero-drop shoes. It’s OK to mix and match with your other shoes as well. 

Keep in mind, one drop doesn’t work for everyone. Going zero-drop should be your decision and you should go through with it only if you enjoy it. 

How we test running shoes

We are a group of running fanatics and we do in-depth research. We created our RunRepeat testing lab to put every shoe through the wringer and pick out the best in various categories. Here is the process:

  • We buy all reviewed shoes with our own money for transparency.
  • We deliver feedback on shoes after we log 30-50 miles. We run, walk, and even do light workouts in these shoes.
  • We cut every shoe into pieces to measure stack, drop, and 30+ other parameters.

The best-performing zero-drop shoes make it here.

Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic
Whether it's a vertical kilometre or an ultra, climbing in the Alps or exploring local mountains, Jovana uses every opportunity to trade walls and concrete for forests and trails. She logs at least 10h/week on trails, with no off-season, and 4x more on research on running and running shoes. With a background in physics and engineering management, she prefers her running spiced with data.