62 best zero drop running shoes

Based on reviews from 406 experts and 20,544 users. Learn how our rankings work or see our guide to zero drop running shoes. Updated Dec 2018.

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What is zero drop?

zero drop running shoes
Best zero drop running shoes – April 2017

The term’s beginning is largely attributed to Altra for its championing of shoes that have the same stack height in the heel and the forefoot. It means that there is no difference in the elevation of the sole from the rear to the front, hence there is no or zero “drop.”

The level height of the sole espouses the idea that the foot is supposed to lie flat on the ground and promote a natural running form and stability. With no forward-sloping construction, zero offset shoes mimic the normal way the foot sits on the ground barefoot.

While the word is quite familiar now, it wasn’t always so. It is only in the last 5 years or so that shoe brands started featuring heel to toe differential after the barefoot running phenomenon took hold of the running world in 2009.

Are all shoes with no heel to toe differential minimal?

It used to be so. At the start of the natural running boom, zero drop shoes were mostly restricted to minimal shoes.

Further evolution, studies, and experience have ushered in the cushioned zero drop shoes. The latter uses some aspects of barefoot running, but with more cushioning for protection during long runs.

So, which is better, a minimal or a cushioned no heel to toe offset shoe?

There was once fear or popular belief that cushioned level-soled shoes may lead to injuries. Very recently, there are new studies emerging that cushioned no drop alternatives are just as likely to cause or prevent injury as the thinly-soled option.

However, there is always a right shoe for the right runner. It depends on the runner’s biomechanics, training, goal, distance, and intensity of the run.

  • Minimal - Runners who want to go fast or do intense speed sessions, the minimal variety generally works better.
  • Cushioned - Runners who may want to pile on the miles, the shoe with thicker cushioning is normally the more popular choice.

Are there zero offset trail shoes?

Yes, the fantastic number of shoes with no heel differential include those that are designed for off-road running.

Can runners who are used to traditional trainers run without any issues in shoes with the same stack height right away?

  • Generally, experts and a large number of the running community would recommend a gradual period, whether it is time or distance, when shifting to shoes with no heel differential.
  • The adjustment period varies, according to the runner’s adaptability, foot strength, and biomechanics. Some can do it in a week while others often times take 5 weeks to adjust.
  • The common consensus is for traditional shoe users to try using transition shoes or those with a difference of 4-8mm before going to a shoe with no disparity in stack height.
  • The most important thing a runner can do is to understand his/her body when running shoes with no stack height difference. There is no one size fits all solution. Some runners simply cannot adapt as the change causes pain, lack of motion, or fatigue.

A transition shoe makes perfect sense as the neurology and musculoskeletal aspects of a runner are already adapted to a running shoe with the more traditional 10-15mm heel differential. A sudden and extensive change may potentially be injurious.

There is no fix time frame, so it should not be a worry when it takes one runner far longer to transition to zero drop shoes compared to others.

Do runners have to change their gaits when using zero drop shoes?

  • One of the effects of no heel offset shoes is a running stride that points to midfoot or forefoot strike. The shoe helps with this, but it is still the runner who makes the conscious decision to go for a new kind of striking.
  • Another change that is likely to happen with zero drop shoes is a more efficient stride. As runners are reinforced by the shoe to a midfoot or forefoot strike, an overextension of strides happen less and less.
  • Runners will become more focused on short, precise, and compact strides to allow the calves to work as nature intended them.

As the heel section does not offer more cushioning than the forefoot, the runner compensates by landing on the midfoot or forefoot so the calves act as the natural absorber of the impact. For this reason, transitioning runners may experience fatigue or tightness in this area during adjustment.

Does it mean that zero drop shoes can automatically improve running form?

The shoe can help as the construction “reinforces” a midfoot or forefoot striking. However, a consistent and improved running form only happens after the runner has put in the time and work.

With the work put in, runners can be accustomed to this striking pattern, even when using shoes with a numbered heel to toe offset.

Will it make the runner faster, as noted in some sites?

Just like getting that good running form, becoming faster in zero drop shoes is a process. The usual rigmarole of training and such all have to be followed to get the best results.

This shoe and all types of shoe are not miraculous answers.

Is the shoe designed only for those with ideal biomechanics?
Right off the bat, it should be noted that there were those who were simply not able to adjust and be very comfortable in this kind of shoe. However:

  • It is also very true that there were runners who have less than ideal biomechanics or with running quirks, inefficient gaits, even those with over pronation or supination who were able to make the complete and very comfortable transition to running shoes with level heel and forefoot height.
  • Not only have they achieved good running form in an extremely comfortable way, they have also managed to best their PR times.

What is the best zero drop shoe?

  • The best zero drop shoe, as with all types of shoes, is exceedingly personal. It all depends on a variety of factors that a runner faces.
  • There are oversized, mid-sized, very minimal, and almost barefoot no heel offset shoes that are there for the taking.

The numerous options only point out the fact that shoe companies are fully committed to provide different types of runners the best shoes with no heel to toe differential.

This shoe has recently been added to RunRepeat. There are still not enough reviews for us to assign it a CoreScore.
A score from 1 to 100 that summarizes opinions from users and experts. The average CoreScore is 78. More...