A few years ago, minimalist running shoes started to gain popularity. This is when the term zero-drop was first heard. Yet, what are zero drop shoes, really? What do they offer? Are there benefits in using them in various sports?
Because of the sudden increase in popularity, those that are in the running world have their own opinions about it. Many have various questions as well. This article aims to help you understand what zero drop shoes are.
Running Shoes: An Evolution
Through the decades, running has remained to be one of the sports that have unchanging principles. Nonetheless, the gear used frequently change. Some of these changes involve design and quality improvement, while others follow current fads.
Looking back, we all ran barefoot. In fact, the leg and foot construction of humans are specially made to make us efficient in long-range running.
Fast forward to thousands of years, running is now considered as a competitive sport. Running shoes were made of thin leather strips back then until vulcanized rubber was introduced in the 1800s.
This development jump-started the use of rubber soles, which were uncomfortable and inefficient. However, the technology became better and paved the way for shoes with better cushioning and traction. Hence, modern running shoes are born.
What Are Zero Drop Shoes?
The goal of zero-drop running shoes is to evenly align the ball of the foot with the heel, in which these two parts end up at the same height as they hit the ground. Zero-drop is a term that literally means no dropping from heel to the toes, just like when going barefoot.
This technology allows the foot to stay in its natural alignment compared to when you are wearing traditional shoes, in which the heel is usually lifted because of the wedge shape.
In theory, heel-to-toe drop directs how your feet hit the surface with each step. Some runners prefer standard running shoes that have raised heels, particularly when racing.
Raised heels typically provide extra cushioning. So, if this type of shoe construction is as beneficial as it is popular, why do other runners prefer zero-drop shoes?
Benefits of Using Zero-Drop Shoes
Here are some of the reasons why more and more runners are using zero-drop shoes:
Makes running feel more natural
Zero-drop shoes mimic the qualities of the first-generation running footwear—running sandals. It generally gives you the feeling of running in a more natural way, regardless of what kind of rubber is placed between you and the ground. This kind of shoe allows you to run in a similar way our ancestors ran.
Minimizes the probability of getting an injury
If you are wearing shoes with thick, wedge-shaped cushioning, chances are, it encourages heel striking, which can have an impact especially on the knees. Elevated heels push you to lean forward, thus, stressing the natural posture of the body.
Zero-drop shoes help reduce lower back pain, as well as pain in the waist, foot, and knee. When you are wearing zero-drop shoes, the impact that is supposed to hit the knee area spreads throughout the calf muscles, minimizing the risk of injury.
Distributes the movement evenly
As mentioned above, zero-drop shoes take away the pressure or impact from the knees and spread it in order to lower injury risk. This movement transforms the calf muscle into an effective shock absorber, which intercepts with the impact directly and distributes it through the leg.
Because of its flat design, zero-drop shoes make sure that every single part of your foot lands firmly on the surface. It also allows the feet to move a little more freely compared to when moving while wearing cushioned running shoes.
Lightweight footwear alternative
Because zero-drop running shoes generally have a minimalist design, they are basically made using less material. This means that you get lighter footwear, which allows you to be faster and more efficient.
Wearing lighter footwear makes running a little less tiring too. In turn, this gives you an edge in competitive running.
Makes you more stable
Because zero-drop shoes push you to run in a natural position, they give you improved stability. This means that you can run faster, performance-wise.
Zero-drop shoes have a more natural feel, which encourages the body to adapt to the environment and can contribute well with how you run.
How to Make a Smooth Transition
The transition from using a conventional running shoe to zero-drop running shoe is not easy. It requires getting used to, particularly if you have been using running shoes with a substantial drop height.
Before buying a pair, you may want to spend time being barefoot every day. This will encourage muscle build up and help strengthen the ligaments and tendons that are needed to support your body during a run.
Moreover, when buying your new zero-drop shoes, try to buy in the evening or afternoon. This is the best time to do it as your feet tend to grow larger at the end of the day.
After you have bought your first pair of zero-drop shoes, allow your feet to get familiar with it first. Wear them during short exercises and rotate use with the most recent shoes you’ve used.
If you already took it for a run, stop once you experience discomfort. It is also ideal to strengthen your feet and continue practicing running barefoot to gain more foot muscles and improve stability.
What are zero drop shoes? Now that you know what they are, you may have already understood that using them is not only for fun but has its benefits too. Zero-drop shoes are certainly staying and are worth considering.
Many runners are already switching from traditional raised heel shoes to using zero-drop running shoes, and most of them do not have plans of looking back. This only proves that zero-drop shoes work, and they work efficiently indeed.
With the growing popularity of this kind of running shoes, it looks like many hobbyists and elite runners are turning into firm believers. Designed with the principle of letting your feet do what they are supposed to do, the success of zero-drop or barefoot shoes only prove that you don’t need big foam wedges and heavy shoes in order to run fast. What you really need is your feet, simply enhanced.