Last Updated on
Whether performance-based running or for the enjoyment of it, many runners imagine an imaginary race happening in their mind.
This thrill of an image is quickly tarnished at the thought of heavy-weight bricks attached to your feet or heel drops that hinder performance.
Each year, new technology and innovations are being released, enhancing and advancing the performance and capacity of athletes and hobbyist alike. In recent years, shoe companies have begun to stray away from the typical and common running shoe to something gravely different: zero drop running shoes.
In this article, we are going to explore what Zero Drop Running shoes are, the advantages and disadvantages, and provide some insight as to how you can find the best zero drop running shoe that matches your running style.
- 1 What are Zero Drop Running Shoes?
- 2 Who are zero-drop running shoes best for?
- 3 Advantages and Disadvantages of Zero Drop Running Shoes
- 4 How to Find the Best Zero Drop Running Shoes
- 5 The 10 Factor Formula to Find a Shoe
- 6 Our Picks for Best Zero Drop Running Shoes
- 7 Merrell Trail Grove 3
- 8 Vibram FiveFingers Bikila
- 9 VivoBarefoot Evo Pure
- 10 New Balance Minimus MT10v1
- 11 Altra Impulse
- 12 Remember…
What are Zero Drop Running Shoes?
Zero Drop is a relatively new term to the shoe industry that can be accredited to a shoe powerhouse company, Altra. Zero Drop is a term utilized to describe a running shoe that was designed with no heel drop. In other words, wearing a pair of zero drop running shoes will feel as if you are standing on the ground with no shoes.
Typically, a normal running shoe is designed with a heel drop between 5mm and 12mm. While running shoes are meant to help with performance, comfort, and stability, companies believe that Zero Drop running shoes not only help with this but also with injury prevention and ailments runners face.
Who are zero-drop running shoes best for?
Zero-drop running shoes are not best for every single type of runner. In fact, some runners may not benefit from zero-drop running shoes due to the lack of specific sole technology. The need to run in zero-drop running shoes is entirely dependent on the individual runner’s preferences, running style, and strengths.
With that in mind, it’s highly advised that, if you suffer from overpronation or high arches, zero-drop running shoes may prove counterproductive. This article will shed light and propose insight to help decipher whether zero drop running shoes are best for you and, if this is the case, how to find the best zero drop running shoes for your specific needs.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Zero Drop Running Shoes
Given the structural differences between running shoes and Zero Drop running shoes, there are some significant advantages that come with no heel drop.
|Very Lightweight.||Prone to odors and moisture build-up.|
|Strength training for feet and arches.||Lack of proper support.|
|Great feedback and response.||Lack of practice can stimulate injury.|
|Less restriction of toes during running.|
|Improves running form.|
|Promotes great stability.|
How to Find the Best Zero Drop Running Shoes
Picking out a proper pair of running shoes is not as simple as finding shoes that look visually appealing and fit well in the store. This is why it’s essential to take the time to evaluate and research all of the important facets of the shoe.
In order to figure out what shoe is best, it’s always important to consider your personal preferences and running style. In this section, we are going to review how to find the best zero drop running shoe by discussing the important characteristics to consider and what to avoid.
The 10 Factor Formula to Find a Shoe
Factor #1 Types of Zero Drop Shoes
When it comes to zero drop, minimalist, or barefoot running shoes, there are three different types of builds or categories of shoes.
Silicone rubber zero drop running shoes are naturally thin and typically suggested for runners who are training. Silicone Rubber designed shoes are not optimal for trail running, or any other rough terrains.
Most professionals will refer to silicone rubber as barefoot running shoes with zero drop. The only downside to silicone rubber built zero drop shoes is the lack of breathability, which can increase odors, moisture, and irritation.
Rubber Composite zero drop running shoes are known as the “performance” shoe. This is attributed to the sole rubber technology that is utilized to build the shoe. On top of this, rubber composite build shoes are naturally more flexible than any other design.
Anyone who purchases rubber composite shoes will be required to undergo a training and break-in period.
Synthetic zero drop running shoes are best for individuals who are seeking protection and control when running. These shoes are designed with patented materials that make runners feel as if they are in control and balanced, while at the same time, grounded and not bearing any shoe weight.
Like Rubber composite, synthetic zero drop shoes may require a period of training or break-in, especially for first-time zero drop runners.
Factor #2 Running Style
From high-performance sport running, training, trail running, and even in-door treadmill running, there are different zero-drop shoes designed for each category. It’s also important to consider your running mechanics. This includes:
- Forefoot Running
Factor #3 Sole Technology
All shoe brands will use different sole technology, depending on the need and want of the specific shoe. Before any runner can pick out a zero-drop running shoe, it’s important to consider your specific wants and needs. Are you looking for a rough terrain running shoe?
Are you looking for a treadmill running shoe? Do you need an everyday comfortable walking shoe? Only through this process can one find a zero-drop running shoe with the matching midsole, outsole, and insole technology. This could also prevent the need for having to buy extra padding or insoles in the future.
Factor #4 Weight
Runners can attest that a heavy-weight shoe can debilitate a performance. Whether training, professionally running, or for the enjoyment of it, a lightweight shoe is vital for peak performance and fitness activity. When picking out a zero-drop running shoe, typically, they should all be very light-weight.
Factor #5 Flexibility
Given the nature of zero-drop running shoes, it may be difficult to find a running shoe or brand that focuses only on flexibility. Typically, running shoes are a balance between stability and flexibility. With zero-drop shoes, the flexibility stems from the different upper materials and the rubber on the outsole.
Factor #6 Breathability
Shoes that are not built with proper upper materials can increase the humidity inside the physical shoe, making it difficult for a runner’s foot to breath.
If you live in a warmer state or climate, this is one factor that must take priority when picking out a zero-drop running shoe. So, during the process, be sure to gauge the ventilation of each shoe and what type of material is being used in the upper and forefront of the shoe.
Factor #7 Support
The support of a running shoe speaks volumes for how your running performance will be. Finding the best zero-drop running should entail looking at the physical build and material of the shoe and how it supports the vitals of a running experience. Are your toes comfortable and snug?
Is the arch supported or over-supported? What touches the ground first, toes or heels? These are important questions to ask when trying on different zero-drop shoes as it will make the decision process much easier. Typically, in zero drop running shoes, support and protection are the last facets considered whereas it should be your first.
Factor #8 Fit
Typically, most zero-drop running shoes are designed to be used without socks. With that being said, it’s advised that, when trying on different zero-drop running shoes, bring a pair of thin socks to figure out what is best for you.
It may prove beneficial to walk around in the zero-drop shoes with both socks and no socks to feel how the shoes fit in both cases. Keep in mind, shoes will feel relatively different after a few miles under their laces.
Factor #9 Traction
No matter the type of shoe you may be purchasing, it’s vital to consider the type of terrain and surfaces you will be running on. Each company designs shoes intentionally for specific types of terrains.
For example, there are zero drop running shoes for rocky and mountainous terrains and then zero drop running shoes for smooth or indoor terrains. Choosing the right terrain means finding the shoe with the best traction for your needs. This will help prolong the life and durability of the shoe.
Factor #10 Design
While the quality of the shoe takes precedence of the entire process, the design of a zero-drop shoe is the last factor for finding the best shoe.
In the shoe industry, one of the only ways to distinguish shoes, aside from elite technology, is the unique designs and colorations. Take the time to research what brands are offering and what designs speak to your eyes. Keep in mind, zero drop shoes with flashier, stylistic, or fashionable designs will cost more than simpler, or basics builds and colors.
Our Picks for Best Zero Drop Running Shoes
Purchasing a pair of Zero Drop Running Shoes for the first time may feel overwhelming, especially with the vast brands and products that exist. If you are still unsure of the type of zero drop running shoe to buy, we created a list of Our Picks for the Best Zero Drop Running Shoes that may be worth your consideration.
The Merrell Trail Grove 3 zero drop running shoes have consistently been one of the top-rated shoes since their release. These shoes are known for their sturdy build and comfort-infused features.
This may be attributed to the synthetic and mesh materials used to design the shoes, or the professional fit-feeling. In our opinion, the best part about these shoes is the unique lacing.
|Antimicrobial properties and technology, which will help with orders and smells.||Not great for people with flat feet.|
|Great designs and coloration.||Very narrow shoe.|
|Built from comfortable synthetic fabrics.||Excessive arch support.|
|0% animal products.|
|Very snug and tight-fit.|
|Mesh allows for greater breathability.|
The Vibram FiveFingers Bikila is one of the most notable zero-drop running shoes in the industry. This is directly attributed to the unique design and coloration. In fact, even people who have never heard of the terminology “zero-drop running shoes” have seen or heard about these shoes.
The Vibram FiveFingers Bikila is great for handling different terrains, climates, and conditions.
These shoes were designed to feel as the middle ground between the foot and the ground, without the extra padding, cushioning, or excessive sole technology. Most veteran zero-drop runners will particularly enjoy the Velcro technology and stretch fabric, both which enhance breathability and comfortability.
|Very lightweight.||Do not run true to size.|
|Promotes flexibility.||Lacks in durability and life-span.|
|Shoe feels like a common sock to the foot.||Very tight toe box.|
|Great protection for feet in rough terrains.|
|Better breathability than other zero-drop running shoes.|
The VivoBarefoot Evo Pure offer both designs and colors with the shoe technology to enhance performance when at the gym or running on the road. VivoBarefoot designed the Evo Pure zero drop running shoes with the idea of minimizing the number of materials needed to design the shoe without sacrificing the quality or performance of the shoe.
Veterans of zero-drop running shoes will find comfort and greater breathability given the hexagonal mesh and lightweight build. On top of this, VivoBarefoot designed the Evo Pure with flexible-promoting sole technology. The only downside to these zero-drop shoes is the lack of availability for some runners.
|Upper technology promotes greater breathability.||These shoes are not designed in particular sizes.|
|Shoe empowers runners with control and balance.||Sizing is not true to size.|
|Evo Pure is made from environment-friendly materials.||Lacks in durability and prone to wear and tear.|
|Very lightweight.||Lack of a variety design and coloration.|
|Hexagonal mesh design is appealing.||Wider toe box than normal.|
In the shoe industry, New Balance is well-known for their highly advanced shoes and technology. In efforts to match the evolution of the shoe industry, the company released their zero-drop running shoes, the New Balance Minimus MT10v1. These shoes are built from ultralight synthetic mesh to promote both breathability and flexibility.
The best part about these shoes is the interestingly designed outsole, which is made from Vibram technology. Runners can anticipate great traction, durability, and performance.
|Ultra-lightweight.||Lack of support.|
|Great traction for non-slip and slip surfaces.||Not great for heel striking runners.|
|Good for people with wider feet.||May not be true to size.|
|Can be used without socks.||Strap below laces may present fitting problems.|
When you mix zero-drop running shoe technology with aesthetically pleasing designs and coloration, you get the Altra Impulse running shoe. This shoe is designed and manufactured from, what running professionals deem, the Founder of Zero Drop running shoes. The Impulse is designed to be lightweight, durable and comfortable.
This can all be attributed to the strong rubber outsole, special ventilation in the upper, and removable insole. The best part about the Altra Impulse is the ample space for your feet and toes, while also balancing a tight and snug sensation. Veteran consumers of the Altra brand will find comfort and empowerment with the Impulse zero-drop running shoes.
|Great for people suffering from ailments in the feet. (Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, etc.)||Lacing may present some challenges for runners.|
|Durable and long-lasting.||Does not run true to size.|
|Wide toe box creates extra room for runners.||Will not help supinating individuals.|
|Increased stability.||Lack of cushioning.|
Further Reading: Check out my full review of the Altra Impulse Flash for an in depth look…
Whether you are a new or a veteran to the zero drop running shoes, the journey to finding the best one can be exciting, as with buying any new pair of shoes. With this in mind, on this journey, be sure to always gauge each candidate utilizing Our 10 Factor Formula, which will help weed through the bad and good running shoes.
Remember, running is a sport and activity that is meant to be enjoyed. Be smart. Purchasing the right running shoe is only half the journey to a successful running performance.