What is the ideal ‘drop’ for a running shoe?

holy grail

Straight to it: based on my understanding of the current knowledge, the evidence and discarding all the logical fallacies, I can find no evidence and no rationale for any blanket recommendations for any ideal drop in a running shoe. Yet, everywhere you go there are some pretty strongly held opinions with lots of the typical rhetoric and propaganda as to what it should be. Given the strength of those opinions I was surprised to find how little evidence backs it up.

‘Drop’ has become the populist term for what the footwear industry normally calls ‘pitch’ and is the difference in the height of a shoe between the heel and forefoot. Some call this the ‘gradient’. To avoid confusion, ‘stack’ is the actually height of the heel and forefoot in the shoe, so heel stack, minus forefoot stack = drop. I probably should be using the more correct term, ‘pitch’, but will use the populist term ‘drop’ here¹.

Typically the drop of the vast majority of running shoes have been around the 10mm mark. I could find no research, rationale, theory or arguments as to why 10mm is the standard that has been used for a very long time by virtually all the traditional running shoe companies. It just appears to be what most runners are comfortable with. Historically, I am aware of a couple of anecdotes from industry insiders in which they did experiment with changing, but it was not accepted in the market.

Obviously, more recently with the minimalist trend, the term ‘zero drop’ has entered the vernaculum. I did a lot of searching and reading to see just what underpins the belief that this is better than a 10mm drop. I could find the very strong opinions, but no research evidence to back it up. I checked the websites of running shoe companies that market zero drop shoes to look for their evidence or rationale as well as the usual books (eg) and websites and found nothing substantial. A lot of them did mention the word “science”, but I could not find any science! To paraphrase what I found: the basic reasoning for zero drop is that it is more ‘natural’ and facilitates a more ‘natural’ running form away from a heel strike whereas a 10mm cushioned shoe tends to encourage the “unnatural” heel strike. That is all I could find to justify it. Anyone with a basic understanding of the ‘critical thinking’ or ‘logical argument’ fallacies will immediately recognize the flaw in that reasoning. It is the natural fallacy and is used all the time to argue that something is better because it is natural. Its a false argument. Just because something is natural does not make it better. Something may or may not be better for you because its ‘natural’, but to use that as an argument is a logical fallacy because there are plenty of natural things that are bad for you and plenty of unnatural things that are good for you.

I also came across a lot of use of the wishful thinking fallacy in regard to this as well. This is simply stating that zero drop or 10mm drop is best and just wishing it to be true. Those kinds of arguments are easy to deconstruct.

So basically, at this stage, nothing really underpins the concept of zero drop except a logical fallacy and nothing underpins the 10mm drop other than most runners are using it and we been doing it for a long time, which is also the logical fallacy of ‘appeal to popularity’ which also does not mean its right. It may or may not be right, but popular things have turned out in the past to be wrong, so no one can use that argument either.

(As an aside, while reading forum posts, blog posts and comments sections on this topic in the crankosphere blogosphere, I was surprised how often I read comments that could be interpreted that as though the 10mm drop was one great conspiracy by the running shoe companies to injure runners and affect their running form in a negative way! … go figure that out, given that the injury rates between traditional shod vs barefoot/minimalist and forefoot/midfoot vs rearfoot are pretty much the same ).

What evidence touches on this? While there is really no direct evidence (unless I missing something), there is some indirect research that can shed some light on this. There was one recent undergraduate project that found no differences in running economy between omm and 4mm drop running shoes. Another study did show running in a shoe with a 7cm or 4.5cm heel raise vs 1 cm is more uneconomical, but that hardly contributes anything to this discussion. Clarke et al in 1983 found no effects on rearfoot motion with changes in running shoe heel height (it would be good to know if there are any kinetic differences here, rather than just kinematic differences). Probably the best bit of research to inform this was by Reinschmidt and Nigg in 1995 in which they looked at changes in ankle joint moments with different heel heights in running shoes and they basically found no systematic differences, but they did report that “However, single subject analyses indicated that for two subjects the plantarflexion moments decreased with increasing heel heights“. For those two subjects this hypothetically, theoretically and overly simplistically means running in a 10mm drop would have less load to plantarflex the foot. This hypothetically and theoretically means that those 2 runners will have less load in the Achilles tendon (ie decreased injury risk for the Achilles problems) and the calf muscles do not have to work as hard (ie improved economy).

That last section points to what is probably the answer to what is the ideal drop: Its subject specific. Some runners are going to do better in a 10mm drop and some are going to do better in a 0mm drop (or the 4,6 and 8 in between), and don’t forget we are talking about very small differences of a few millimeters of a compressible material here. I have not touched on those issues of compression and drop and a cushioned zero drop shoe, may even be a negative drop shoe under load.

There are plenty of anecdotes of runners transitioning to zero drop running shoes and doing just fine and claiming to get less injury. Similarly, there are also plenty of anecdotes of runners not doing so well and claiming to get more injuries. But these are anecdotes and we know from the evidence just how unreliable anecdotes are when it comes to making blanket recommendations. This is the anecdotal fallacy.

For those who managed to understand what I wrote in the post on why one size does not fit all, its just as applicable here. Just look at the picture in that post showing the variation of the location of the subtalar joint axis; imagine the differing effects and lever arms that a 10mm vs a 0mm drop will have at that joint (let alone all the variations in the other joint axes across a group of runners!). You can then start to appreciate why the ideal drop is probably going to be subject specific.

Unfortunately, all we mostly have at the moment to determine this subject specific need is trial and error. We certainly need more work. What was it about the 2 subjects on the Reinschmidt and Nigg study above that changed? Was there anything “clinically” different in them compared to the others to help predict that they hypothetically and theoretically would benefit from a 10mm drop shoe? In the comments section on the post I did on supination resistance it was also speculated that those with high supination resistance probably should be in a higher drop shoe (and that speculation was based on extrapolating some research). It is more work, preferably more than just thought experiments along these lines that are going to help get to the bottom of determining in advance what the subject specific response is more likely to happen with different drops, so better recommendations rather than trial and error can be made. There is probably never going to be any research showing that one drop is systematically better than another (and I am sure this will disappoint the conspiracy nutters who think running shoe companies are deliberately trying to injure runners and affect their running form in a negative way).

On a personal note, I have drifted away from doing some of my runs in the NB Minimus (0mm drop) to the Saucony Kinvara’s (4mm drop). But that is my personal preference. Its what just feels right for me. I just don’t feel motivated and arrogant enough to evangelasize that because it works for me, that I have found the final solution and the holy grail and everyone should do it the way I preach.

While researching this, I was surprised to find a forum post I made 2yrs ago on this topic and had forgotten I made it:

“All we have is the nonscientific pseudoscientific propaganda from the ‘one size fits all’ school.
I don’t think there is a systematic ideal height. There is probably a subject specific ideal height … all we need is a way to determine it.”

… nothings changed! All we need is a way to determine it.

As always: I go where the evidence takes me until convinced otherwise,  and thou shalt not commit logical fallacies when trying to determine it.


1. Sorry, David

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56 Responses to What is the ideal ‘drop’ for a running shoe?

  1. Tim Litzinger December 1, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    “On a personal note, I have drifted away from doing some of my runs in the NB Minimus (0mm drop) to the Saucony Kinvara’s (4mm drop). ”

    Ok, but with this switch you have also added more padding, so even you don’t know if its the 4mm difference or not when it comes to your own preference.

    While I agree with most of it, I also have a small issue with your logic.

    “To paraphrase what I found: the basic reasoning for zero drop is that it is more ‘natural’ and facilitates a more ‘natural’ running form away from a heel strike whereas a 10mm cushioned shoe tends to encourage the “unnatural” heel strike. That is all I could find to justify it. Anyone with a basic understanding of the ‘critical thinking’ or ‘logical argument’ fallacies will immediately recognize the flaw in that reasoning. It is the natural fallacy and is used all the time to argue that something is better because it is natural. Its a false argument. Just because something is natural does not make it better.”

    True, but it is also logical to start with the assumption that natural is better unless otherwise discovered. I’m going to assume that a chicken breast from a farm where the chicken was free to roam, is better for me than a chicken Mcnugget, whether the science is there or not. Yes, it is possible that this assumption is wrong. Likewise, it is completely logical to think that zero drop is better for you than shortening your achilles chronically. Of course, it is also completely logical to think that switching from a 12mm gradient to a 0mm might cause problems if you have been wearing the 12 mm all your life (again shortening the achilles chronically). So again, logic WOULD dictate that a 0 drop (or natural) is better for you but the same logic does not mean it is better for you to switch. Or certainly not an immediate switch.

    • Craig Payne December 1, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

      but it is also logical to start with the assumption that natural is better unless otherwise discovered

      Why is it? You just applied the natural fallacy to your argument!

      Likewise, it is completely logical to think that zero drop is better for you than shortening your achilles chronically.

      Nope. How many runners do you know who have always worn 10-12mm drop that can’t get their heels to the ground? I have never seen one. A high drop does not chronically shorten the achilles. If it did, then why can runners still get their heels to the ground when going barefoot? Its not logical at all. Simply making that statement is an eg of the “wishfull thinking fallacy” – you are just wishing it to be true. Mind you, I read that kind of statement all the time. Its simply not true, and those making that statement just wish it was true as it suit their purposes and if it gets repeated enough then people might start to believe it.

      Can you see the problem that I keep constantly bringing up?

  2. Droichead December 1, 2013 at 9:15 pm #


    Your counterargument for “shortened” or less flexible achilles tendon by stating that touching the ground when barefoot means equal flexibility and dorsiflexion ability in your ankle lacks the same level of scientific rigor that you accuse those that make statements about what is better. If we are going to be strict and serious in an argument we have to apply the same rigor to all approaches. Muscles and tendons are flexible, a minor reduction in flexibility does not mean that certain positions or angles cannot be reached, it means that they are done at a slightly higher stress in the tendon.

    In relation to the drop issue, can you please tell me what is the advantage of 10mm or any other drop at all? Because if that parameter was not there in the very first place, I think that the challenge is in demonstrating the advantages of the introduction of the drop itself than the other way around. And no, this does not mean that I support the “natural” fallacy, but I still think that it is more to explain from the benefits of the addition of drop (because it wasn’t there in the first place) than the other way around.

    I have been reading your excellent site for a long time and I agree with you that cherry picking is a common disease, however when you mentioned as counterargument “For those two subjects this hypothetically, theoretically and overly simplistically means running in a 10mm drop would have less load to plantarflex the foot.” Is this not cherry picking? so it is plantarflexion the only parameter that matters, what about other parts of the whole chain where the effect of drop is reversed? (i.e. lower drop reduces certain torques or stresses).

    • Craig Payne December 1, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

      Your counterargument for “shortened” or less flexible achilles tendon by stating that touching the ground when barefoot means equal flexibility and dorsiflexion ability in your ankle lacks the same level of scientific rigor that you accuse those that make statements about what is better. If we are going to be strict and serious in an argument we have to apply the same rigor to all approaches.

      You missed the point! Simply stating that a high drop shortens the achilles is simply not true as those who wear high heels can get their heels to the ground. How is that chronic shortening? If chronic shortening happened, then women who wear high heels and runners who wear 10-12mm drop will mostly be walking around barefoot with their heels off the ground! Do you see them doing that? No scientific rigor is needed to show those claims are wrong. BUT, rather than ask me for that are you also going to ask Tim to produce some scientific rigor to back up his claims?

      can you please tell me what is the advantage of 10mm or any other drop at all?

      That is my exactly point. I can see no systematic advantage of one over another. The fan boys seem to see it, but no one else is. I suspect (theoretically and hypothetically) that a higher drop will be of more benefit to those with high supination resistance and a medial STJ axis as there is some evidence and rationale for that and that will reduce loads in teh tissues; but apart from that I can see no other reasons for any other recommendation – maybe one day we will. That was the point of the last part of the post.

      There probably is going to be an advantageous drop for the individual eg the two in the Reinschmidt and Nigg study clearly got an advantage in one parameter and would benefit from a higher drop if that parameter needed altering in the direction that it was.

      What we need a is whole lot more parameters that different drops impact on; some ‘clinical’ indicators to predict that, then we can start making recommendations based on individual needs and what parameters wee need to change.

      Is this not cherry picking?

      That is not what cherry picking is. Cherry picking is when you pick one study that supports you and ignore another study that does not support you (the fan boys do that ta lot). I just used those two subjects to illustrate the subject specific response to different drop.

      The plantarflexion moments were the parameters that changed in those two subjects in that study and if that is the parameter you need to change in those two subjects (could be for any one of a number of reasons), then a higher drop would have done it.

      To be clear: I am not systematically advocating one drop over another as I can find no reason to. I would like to find indicators that can be predictive of when one drop may be better than another for an individual. We don’t have that yet.

  3. Craig Payne December 1, 2013 at 10:01 pm #

    WTF!!! If you want to email abusive emails to me, at least show me you can read. I NEVER said there was anything wrong with zero drop! I run in zero drop shoes myself!

    • James March 11, 2015 at 10:17 am #

      You are completely moronic! You have no basis for an argument. Do the adequate research before you preach about a topic you clearly DO NOT have the answers to. The fact I made it through your ‘article’ is mind boggling… However I was interested in getting to the comments and presumably they were as expected. If people actually come to your for an educational purpose you should remove this heap of shit as it is misinforming the sheep of our society.

      • Craig Payne March 11, 2015 at 9:13 pm #

        Rather than attack me and provide nothing of any substance in your reply, perhaps you could actually point us to the “research” that shows one drop is better than another?

        Attacking me rather than provide substantive arguments and actual evidence is just proving me right (please see the logical fallacies above). Thanks for that.

        • Ground Pounder June 13, 2017 at 8:12 pm #

          I find it amazing how irate people can get about an article which basically says “there isnt any real evidence one way or another, wear what suits you”….

          Are people arguing with their own shadows?

          As “full disclosure” type point, I find anything with less than a 10mm heel drop crippling but then I do have a long history of compartment syndrome which two fascioctomies failed to rectify. Every bit of physio, coaching and rehab I’ve had has lent towards cushioned heel inserts to off-set the fashion for low heel drop shoes.

  4. Droichead December 1, 2013 at 10:13 pm #


    I am not stating that a high drop shortens the achilles. I am stating that the fact that people that wears high drops have exactly the same flexibility in their achilles just because can touch with their heels in the ground when barefoot does not prove that the achilles is not shortened (tendons and muscles are flexible, its the neutral point of no tension what matters). Of course it is up to those that make the “shortening” statement to prove it, but your, in my opinion, over simplistic counter argument does not prove that ankle, achilles and calf flexibility is exactly the same just because can land their heels in the ground when barefoot.

    I mean cherry picking in terms of mentioning a particular study with a particular reduction of a measurement in an argument which is very general, i,e “ideal drop”, ankle joint moments is a small part of a much larger equation, the fact that in a particular study decreases with the drop does not mean anything, other moments might increase in different areas, etc. I understand that you are deconstructing the fallacies stated by others that defend the benefits of zero drop with no scientific arguments, but I think that the danger of mentioning specific cases can always be taken as cherry picking.

  5. Tim Litzinger December 1, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

    Craig, your responses and lack of knowledge regarding the issue you at hand really put into question any trust and integrity regarding this web site. Unfollowed!

  6. Dana Roueche December 9, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    Craig, good post. I’m just glad that the shoe companies are offering many more models that have a drop other than 10 or 12mm. Until they started marketing trail shoes with lower drops in the mid 90’s there weren’t many shoe options that didn’t have a 10 or 12mm drop other than racing flats or cross country shoes.

    Now a runner can try shoes with various heel-toe differentials and find what feels and works best for them. I know what works best for me so between that and a few other variables, I can quickly sort through the running shoe jungle and get to the models that best fit my requirements.

  7. Mark Richard January 31, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

    No evidence for pitch in shoes.
    People adapt to it. (Not ideal)
    Nature will adapt a part to a feature imposed on it! In other we get used to it.

  8. Golden March 14, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

    You are correct in that there is no science to support ANY claim, by any running shoe company, ever. With that said, I would love to send you a pair of cushioned Zero Drop shoes for an experiment of 1 for you. More importantly, they have a foot-shaped toe box, which is a much bigger deal than Zero Drop anyway. Send me your info and we’ll get something out to you.

    Golden Harper, Creator & Founder
    Altra Footwear

    • Jacqueline April 1, 2018 at 12:33 pm #

      For those of us used to larger heel to toe drops, would it be possible for Altra to offer shoes at different heel to toe drop ranges so that we could transition gradually (or refuse to transition and still take advantage of the foot shaped toe box)? I bought some Altra shoes, but my ankle started bothering me after a quarter mile running in them. They also seemed to have a negative heel to toe drop. My heel felt like it had no cushion under it, while the front of my foot felt like walking on a gym mat. I am mainly attracted to the foot shaped toe box. I would love to see that offered in a running shoe with a traditional drop. Or, perhaps another manufacturer can do this for us?

  9. Kaycee August 14, 2014 at 3:44 am #

    There is, however, science straight from my podiatrist’s office stating that if you have peroneal tendonitis (which feels like someone stabbing you with a knife under your lateral ankle bone) DON’T WEAR ZERO DROP SHOES! 7 years of trying to get my feet as level as possible believing I shouldn’t be wearing any kind of height in my heel because my foot/ankle hurt, I go into the podiatrist, he takes one look at my flat, zero drop shoes and says get rid of those–they’re killing your feet. I would guess that zero drop shoes might be good for some people with certain types of feet/problems, but I will never go near them again. Thank goodness Brooks makes a 12 mm drop shoe–it’s the minimum for me.

    • Ground Pounder June 13, 2017 at 8:14 pm #

      Seconding this.

  10. Frank August 15, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

    Here is a link I found of an interview with an Asics consultant who states that Asics had done double-blind studies which concluded that most people prefer a shoe in the 10mm drop range:


  11. Frank August 15, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

    So it seems, there is some “science” behind the idea of a raised heel, whether or not the science came after the heel was raised.

  12. Ellen September 17, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    Hi Craig,

    I am a starting runner and yesterday I bought my first pair of running shoes. After testing all kinds of shoes, I ended up with the Saucony Kinvara, 4mm drop. The seller (Run2Day), after first recording my run on camera and making a few shoe decisions bades on that, gave a lot of advise and information about drop and some ‘wisdoms’ (not science) behind it.
    I think you are right that it has to be subject specific.
    A few thing I learned after my experience and the seller’s information. Sprinters (short distance, high speed, also like soccer players) run more naturally, more on their forefoot. To them the drop wouldn’t matter, they will always run more on their forefoot.
    For me, as a beginner, I had no clue I started on my heel. I had a bit of an ache on my knee (I think runners knee). During all the testing of all kind of shoes, I really noticed a difference between running on a 12mm drop shoe (a 8mm drop shoe) and a 4mm drop shoe. The smaller the drop, the less the pain. Today I do have muscle ache in my calves.
    The 4mm drop forces me to run more natural, to run more on my forefoot. And for me this results in more intensive use of the muscles and less pressure (? or something) on at least the knee joint.
    One might (I did!) conclude that forefoot running is more natural and 4mm (and zero) drop will force you into this. It is harder on the muscles, but easier on the joints.
    If you’re already a forefoot runner, the drop doesn’t matter.

    Of course I do wonder if my conclusion can be generalized, or that it is still subject (me) specific.

    Thanks for your article, I enjoyed reading it, and got more insight into my new shoes.

    Ellen, from the Netherlands

    • Ellen September 18, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

      I read more of your articles. I now got some more insight into my own comment, my own body and how the ‘mechanics’ work. Thanks.

    • Kevin A. Kirby, DPM September 18, 2014 at 6:58 pm #


      There is nothing more “natural” about forefoot striking than midfoot striking or rearfoot striking running. 90% of runners footstrike on the posterior third of the shoe (heel-strike) while less than 5% of all runners are forefoot strikers. In addition, a 2013 study done on habitually barefoot Kenyan runners showed that 72% of Kenyan runners preferred to heel strike and only 4% preferred to forefoot strike.

      Why would you then believe that such a uncommonly used running footstrike pattern as forefoot striking is more “natural” than the footstrike pattern that is, by far, more common?

      Kevin A. Kirby, DPM

      • Ellen September 19, 2014 at 9:48 am #

        I didn’t mean to state it was more natural, but from what I have read, I thought running by forefoot striking is often called natural running. Though I might even be mistaken by that. That is why I kept following it with ‘more on the forefoot’, to explain what I meant. I guess I mixed up the terms.

        My post was more intended for sharing my experience as a newbee.

        • Kevin A. Kirby, DPM September 20, 2014 at 8:19 pm #


          The reason I questioned you on why you thought that forefoot striking running was “natural” is because the term “natural” is often used by individuals who are marketing a commercial product or their pet ideology to make their product or pet ideology seem better than it really is. This is called the “appeal to nature” argument. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_nature

          If you consider that the term “natural” is defined as:

          existing in nature and not made or caused by people : coming from nature,

          then all footstrike patterns, rearfoot, midfoot and forefoot striking, are “natural”, since they all exist as patterns of footstrike in humans, whether barefoot or in shoes.

          However, as far as the most prevalent footstrike pattern in running, every single large scale running footstrike pattern research study has shown that heel-striking running is by far (about 90%) the most common footstrike pattern, with forefoot striking being about 49 times to 245 times less common than forefoot striking running.

          Looking at that data, and the definition of the word “natural”, I would say that rearfoot striking running is by far, much more “natural” than forefoot striking running.

      • andrew hutchinson June 8, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

        All this talk of “striking” and which is better shows a real lack of depth of understanding of running gait, biomechanics and human movement as a whole. It has far more to do with where your foot “lands” (not strikes) in relation to your body – if the foot lands in the “appropriate range” (usually between 10-20cm in front of your centre of mass), then it doesn’t really matter whether your heel. midfoot or forefoot touches first as the foot will be almost flat in all of these instances (barring some major dysfunction) and will load as intended and will lad the rest of the body as intended, providing the runner has reasonably good posture (a whole other topic about which we could spend years reading). I’m not going to go on as to go into real detail as it would take me a couple of days to explain it all, however, if someone wishes to train for good form/technique/posture then some true barefoot running really should be part of that (or at the very least in truly minimal footwear such as vivobarefoot, thinner vibrams, merrell vapour glove, sole runner, feelmax etc etc although even this really minimal footwear does have quite an effect on certain types of feedback from the soles of the feet, obviously).

        Oh and by the way, we should all ideally be in “zero drop”, flexible and foot shaped footwear – it can take some time to adjust to this (and you have to stop running for a while in many cases) and for some this is too long a process so they will go with a preferred amount of drop and if that’s your thing, go for it – it’s the same if you want a bit of cushioning for whatever reason, go for it – it will affect your proprioception and therefore affect balance, loading etc etc but i understand that sometimes it is preferred. Oh and there is science to back up shoes with no “pitch” and even if there wasn’t, how much time in our evolutionary heritage did we spend with a ramp under our heels – about 40 years out of 200,000 ish (modern humans). Surely that’s enough proof for anyone – if you need drop for rehab, or transition or whatever then fine, just don’t pretend it’s how things should be.

        • andrew hutchinson June 8, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

          that’s “load” the rest of the body. not lad 😉

        • Craig Payne June 8, 2015 at 9:06 pm #

          “Oh and there is science to back up shoes with no “pitch””

          Care to share that science with us or are you just making that up?

  13. Michael March 11, 2015 at 11:40 pm #


    You seem to be taking a beating in these comments on this topic. Congratulations on not deleting them. They show how fan boys react when the evidence does not support their beliefs. They are making themselves look silly. As you say above, those who are choosing to criticize are saying nothing of any substance to counter what you say and just bag you. By doing that they prove you right. Keep up the good work

    Michael Stines

  14. NUR 0 April 15, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading you article above.
    Thanks, MK

  15. David Wilson May 8, 2015 at 1:45 am #

    I’m currently recovering from a broken ankle (not related to my running) so our site is currently down.

    I have to agree with the guy you disagreed with earlier, though I suspect it will just continue to add to your circular logic. There is plenty of evidence that natural runners, like Kenyans, who not only spend a lot of their lives running with crappy support if they have shoes, but run barefoot (as zero drop as it gets) are amazing performers. You are starting from a premise of trying to prove the natural motion of your ankle and foot are better, but that’s not really the way progress through science works, is it? You start with what is “natural” – what exists – and you prove that something makes it better. By your own argument, none of the science that currently exists does that, so without scientific basis, there is no logical reason to shift from the natural form – and so – while there is no evidence that the zero drop shoes are better, they should probably have been the “control” since there has never been any serious evidence that the extra support or incline helps in any way, it’s not the zero drop shoes that should be under question, as far as I can see.

    Another part of this is, however, that almost no shoe depends solely on one difference from others. Altra, for instance. With or without the extra drop, the wider toe-box and less restrictive fit has improved how my feet and ankles respond after long runs. Anecdotal evidence isn’t scientific, but to me it makes more sense over time than buying shoes because the company who makes them can afford more advertising in Running Times…but too often that’s how it happens. I have shifted shoes many times, and at 55, I can tell within a short period whether the shoes are beneficial in any way to how I feel when and after I run…

    I think you’re right, it would be wonderful to get some solid research on this. Unfortunately, as in most industries, unless one company can find solid science proving they have discovered the holy grail, what we will get is a long series of articles and studies that SEEM to make sense, and make people buy shoes – which is the industry bottom line.

    • Craig Payne May 8, 2015 at 1:59 am #

      So why do the bulk of the elite Kenyans runners run in 10mm drop shoes? You claim “plenty of evidence that natural runners, like Kenyans”. I would like to see that evidence as I am not familiar with it. What is your citation?

      • andrew hutchinson June 8, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

        because they are paid to.- by the time they are running in these shoes, they have already developed good form and very strong intrinsic and extrinsic foot muscles (although this is changing with the introduction of shoes to younger athletes – it’s had a particularly negative effect on kenyan injury rates in the past 10 years).

        • Craig Payne June 8, 2015 at 9:01 pm #

          How do you know that? Yes they are being paid, but how do you know that they were those types of shoes because they are paid? At that level they look for every advantage. If a lower drop shoe would help, then would most likely wear them. Wishful thinking does not make something true.

        • Craig Payne June 8, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

          ” it’s had a particularly negative effect on kenyan injury rates in the past 10 years).”

          Citation please, or are you just making that up too?

  16. Buck Banzai May 26, 2015 at 3:17 am #

    While all of this arguing and debate is interesting, it does absolutely nothing to help me keep running for the next thirty years. Good grief people! Find a fence post to argue with!

    • andrew hutchinson June 8, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

      ha ha, very good Buck – i was looking for something else when i cam across this article and couldn’t help myself but post when reading such uninformed nonsense from so many – maybe it was the coffee i had this afternoon as i should have just left it but it’s this kind of uninformed rubbish that doesn’t help people at all.I’m not telling people which way to go, they can make their own minds up – but they should at least have the correct information. And to respond to what one guy said, anecdotal is good enough for me (and many other scientists) – it’s evidence based so therefore scientific. Most of us in the overdeveloped world have such poor lower leg/foot musculature (from the footwear we’ve grown up in and the lifestyles we lead) that we probably shouldn’t be running at all until we’ve done some serious rehab. anyway, that’s me done.

  17. Chad September 11, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

    Craig this is a fantastic article and I love the comments. I started running with a pair of “Low drop” (4mm) shoes and they felt fantastic and really got me into running. When those wore out I got the next years version which had slightly more drop (6mm) and those were fine as well (although I liked the old ones better). Those wore out and all the shoes from that manufacture now sit in the 8-10mm range. I was worried it would make my experience worse. Researching what drop or pitch even was in shoe terms brought me to this very informative article and it backs up the trial pair of 10mm I’ve put 13miles on this week feeling fine to me. Thanks for you well laid out analysis.

  18. Andrew November 28, 2015 at 10:09 pm #

    If there is no evidence for zerodrop, then where is the evidence for a 10 or 12mm drop?

    • Craig Payne November 28, 2015 at 10:14 pm #

      Andrew – that was my point. There is no evidence for either (and there still isn’t in the 2 yrs since I wrote the above).

      From hanging out in a couple of running shoe social media groups it is becoming clearer that there does seem to be a drop ‘sweet spot’ for each runner that they arrive at via trial and error; but that individual ‘sweet spot’ varies from runner to runner; for some its zero, for others its 5 and for others it 10 – its individual.

      To advocate one drop over another is still nonsensical.

  19. Ivan Rivera December 15, 2015 at 12:55 am #

    Wow. People need to cool off. I’m a fan of minimalist unsupported shoes and I always come back to this great blog as a counterpoint to my enthusiasms.

    If there’s no evidence, people need to know. Although I haven’t read anything one way or the other, I’d be surprised if pathologies similar to women who wear high heels did not occur in people who wear shoes with a big drop (the frequency or magnitude of the pathology being commensurate in some way with the drop itself).

    That said, I think that the (lack of) evidence adds support to the (obvious) notion that the body is an extremely complex system—moving towards “good form” (whatever that means) isn’t going to be accomplished by one solitary intervention (changing the drop on the running shoe), particularly when there are so many compensatory avenues available to the body.

    In fact, in my experience as a running coach, drop is just about the last thing I’d screw with, because of the conflicting (and otherwise lack of) evidence as to how drop stresses the achilles tendon, changes biomechanics, and consequently how an abrupt change in drop can shock untrained tissues.

    I try to slowly move people into shoes with less drop, less support, and more groundfeel, but as a consequence of a gradual process of increased mobility, motor control, running skill, and tissue adaptation.

  20. Jessy Van Horn April 13, 2016 at 1:25 am #


    Thank you for trudging through articles for me to confirm there is not one answer! I have always ran in 0 pitch shoes and until recently ran on trails. Because of my new location, I have to run on roads or sidewalks mostly and am experiencing some pain. I am wondering if a more cushioned shoe would alleviate some of the pain, do you have any suggestions? How was switching to a 4mm pitch? I’ve ran in the saucony shays forever, so the kinvara seems like a logical progression in some way.

    Thanks! Enjoyed the read!

    • Craig Payne April 13, 2016 at 3:24 am #

      Sorry, no idea. It will all depend on what the exact nature of the injury is and the mechanism and if a 4mm pitch can or can not reduce the load in that injured tissue.

    • NH October 28, 2016 at 2:50 pm #

      I run sprints on an inclined, shock absorbing treadmill, so my experience may be different from yours. You asked about the Kinvara’s, which I loved, but their cushion wore down too fast. I switched to Brooks Pure Flow, which lasted a little longer, but still not long enough. I am currently running (and doing high impact cardio) in the Saucony ISO Triumph. They have an 8mm drop and are less flexible than the other two, but I feel like they give a bit of a bounce back when running and put less load on my joints.
      Just my personal experience.

  21. Sondre Sandberg May 5, 2016 at 9:52 am #

    WoW, some people do really love low-drop shoes (a little to much obviously).

    Thank you for an article which describes the problem with low drop or high drop. That the evidence is missing, and you will have to find out what works for you.

    Thanks alot!

  22. Mike Germann July 4, 2016 at 3:54 pm #


    I couldn’t agree more. The approach to these conversations are most always rooted in unsubstantiated claims with no supporting science. I very much appreciate your agnostic approach to this, and maintaining a neutral stance until conclusive evidence is made available. It’s uncommon to find unbiased analysis of just about ANY topic, from religion to politics, and now even running shoes because they are complicated and multi-faceted topics.

    When one has a question, if the seeker is being intellectually honest and wants to get as close to the truth as possible, then the answer must follow the careful, objective, and open-minded consultation and review of multiple resources representing all sides of the issue at hand.

    If the above is true (I think most of us can agree that it is), then folks who seek their answers from a single resource – or from multiple resources within a single belief system, or holding a common worldview – are simply not seeing the whole picture. Sadly, there are hordes of people in this category: people whose minds are closed to virtually all information that does not fit neatly within the narrow confines of their belief system.

    That being said, I find myself in the predicament of searching for a new shoe to replace my Brooks PureConnect – which have been, quite unfortunately, discontinued. I found this thread in hopes of getting a simple answer for the kind of shoe to replace it with, and the unbiased approach led me to the conclusion that I may just need trial and error to get something comparable – because I cannot honestly and accurately state that any one specific feature of that model shoe was what worked so well for me.

  23. Andrew white September 8, 2016 at 10:19 pm #

    Loving the fan boy responses.
    I believe that there probably is a drop sweet spot, but it depends on so many factors that differ between us all and even they change from day to day, season to season, different surfaces, hot or cold , up or down.

  24. Thanh September 22, 2016 at 9:31 pm #

    Thanks for taking the time to write this Craig. Sorry for all the illogical arguments that you have to answer in the comment section.

    I injured myself several time running, and do a ton of research to see how I can reduce it. Only thing I can conclude at this point is: more running equal more running injuries, ice after the run helps, forefoot striking appear to move cause more loading on the calf and rear foot strike put more load on the knees.

  25. Tom Donner November 4, 2016 at 1:46 am #

    how about this for thought?

    Manufacturer created this drop so they don’t have to cushion equally in forefoot and heels. Forcing runners to heel strike allows them to focus on only one area and minimal cushioning on forefoot to save costs.

    Zero drop means you should have equal cushioning uniformly across.

    Like you stated, there is no scientific evidences for a higher heel drop or zero heel drop. You only need one of this study to argue for one. How did shoes evolved to have a drop to begin with?!

  26. Brandon November 5, 2016 at 2:52 am #

    The development of drop was initiated by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight, with a “new heal wedge design”. It’s absolutely true that not one size fits all, however, there are definitely good scientific studies addressing different impact loads to different muscle groups and bone structures in the leg, as well as biomechanical changes in each type of shoe. An individual must know there own needs and use the science to guide them, but the science is there.

    Here is one on actual loads to areas of the leg muscles in different footwear and footstrike patterns:


    Here is one on transition into low drop shoes:


    Running economy:


    Forefoot running and compartment syndrome:


    Biomechanical effects of footwear on footstrike pattern:


    The research is out there, it’s in multiple sports medicine journals.

  27. chiara November 11, 2016 at 1:28 am #

    I’m going to add my anecdotal evidence on heel drop. I’m a shoe rotator – usually 3 pairs in rotation, all difference brands and different drops. I currently run ~50 mpw, and in the past closer to ~40. I have tried 4mm (Kinvara), the Pure Cadence (I think 6mm?) a few years ago. Ended up having anterior tibialis issues. Recently, I have been running with the Nike Zoom Elite. 8mm, though they have this weird upturned heel that almost seems to make it less if you land anywhere near your heel. I was good for a while with those but I’ve gotten to about 180 miles on them and recently started having the same issues all over again (am contemplating sticking part of a foam insert in the heel to get some lift).

    When I run in my 10mm and 12mm Mizunos, I feel markedly less pressure/pain in my anterior tibialis muscles.

    So, I couldn’t agree more that person to person, the ideal drop is different. To assume everyone should just change their gait to land on mid to forefoot is, IMO, a little ridiculous. And could lead to other issues in the lower legs.

    And I can sit in a flat-footed squat (with my rear end almost touching the floor) for long periods of time – no shortened achilles here.

  28. Michal January 9, 2017 at 8:30 am #

    I had some spine problems (most probably due to my work) and was told by my doctors to stop running. For a year and a half or so, I have experimented with minimalist running. I may not be running as many kilometers as I used to do, but guess what… no pain in the back 🙂

    • Craig Payne January 9, 2017 at 8:46 am #

      Different running shoes in different runners load different tissues differently.

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  30. Pat May 5, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

    I’m a supinator. I twisted my ankles quite a bit growing up. I realized later that I never twisted my ankles barefoot. I’ve found the higher the heel the more unbalanced I was and consequently, it was easier to twist my ankle (oh the pain!). I used to buy those expensive inserts thinking they’ll help but they just raised my foot up even more! I got real tired of it and experimented. I’ve found a 4mm drop perfect for everything, walking, running, etc. I haven’t twisted my ankle in quite some time. I also get shoes that are very flexible and wide so my toes can splay (not very easy to find!). It’s funny toddlers shoes are nice and roomy, flexible and low. Why do we go from that to narrow, hard and high? For me the toddler shoes got it right.

  31. Ale Santuz September 14, 2017 at 9:49 am #

    Just to add my thoughts and some new research on the heel-to-toe drop topic:

  32. Filipe Pinto October 18, 2017 at 9:57 pm #

    I run with 0 drop, 8, 10, rotating all the time, and never have problems. Sometimes I even run with different drops in both feets, using multi brand shoes. I do this for several years now. For me the most important is to fill confortable.

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