Why your running shoe 'drop' is important
The ‘drop’ of a running shoe, as it’s commonly referred to, is the difference in midsole height or thickness between the heel and forefoot. I feel that at this point in time, more so than ever, running shoe companies are releasing various models that have a huge variation in drop. We have companies like Brooks and Mizuno that currently have many models with a traditional drop of 10-12mm, while other companies like New Balance and Sacouny have a lot of models with a lower drop of 4-6mm. Then we have companies like Inov8, Newton, Vibram and Altra that specialise in low drop shoes as a rule in all of their models. They use terms like ‘zero drop’ and ‘natural running’ to market their shoes.
Have you heard that ‘zero drop’ is the best because it’s natural and how our bodies were designed to run? I hear this a lot from injured runners. Unfortunately, this is largely just marketing hype playing on the natural is better fallacy. Since when are all things natural better for us! We live in the year 2015, what’s ‘natural’ about anything we do or wear every single day?! I find this notion analogous to some of the pseudo-scientific dietary fads that are in abundance today like the paleo diet that also uses the naturalistic fallacy.
The marketing hype surrounding ‘zero drop’ is, in my opinion, more harmful than the ‘motion control’ marketing garbage of the late 80’s and 90’s.
I’m not saying zero drop or motion control are garbage per se. What I’m against is the blanket recommendations that one type is better for everyone! Some will do better in a higher drop, some in a lower drop and others in a higher drop with ‘stability’ or ‘motion control’ features.
Discussion on 'motion control' running shoes, if they can actually control motion and if you need that ‘control’ is a LONG blog. It’s mother’s day and in the famous words of youtube bronchitis lady - ain't nobody got time for that!
Let’s stick to drop for now.
Does a few millimeters here or there matter? Yes it does! Distance running is a highly repetitive activity with large ground reaction forces being absorbed at each foot strike. Changes in footwear characteristics play a huge role in the location and magnitude of accumulated load through the foot and entire lower extremity. From personal and clinical experience, I find the drop an important consideration when purchasing a running shoe. If you’re someone that has always run in a more traditional 10mm drop running shoe (whether that be a training shoe or racing flat) and have no injury concerns I would be cautious in switching to a lower drop running shoe. If you switch to a lower drop, do it gradually – find out the drop of your current model and compare it to what you are looking to purchase (a simple google search using the shoe brand and model with the word ‘drop’ can provide you the drop info if it’s not stated on the shoe).
So what drop is right for you? Again, the best advice I can offer is if you have been running in a particular drop, like a standard 10mm drop, and haven’t been injured for a long time, don’t change, stick to the higher drop! The same can be said for those that a