Zero Drop Running Shoes – What’s the Deal?
There is a constant desire to be better, do better, and look better. When it comes to running, all of this is even more true. Think about the past – we’ve gone from running with bare feet, to running in basic training shoes, to more advanced, air-pocket shoes, to full on all singing, all dancing shoes which might as well do the running for you! These days however, we’re going back to basics, and there is a lot of evidence to back up why this might be more beneficial.
Have you heard of zero drop running shoes?
If not, you need to clue yourself up because going back to the natural way your foot makes constant with the ground could have some benefits for your overall performance. These are often referred to as the best barefoot running shoes around, but in order to really figure out whether these are a good answer for you, we need to find out what they are.
What Are Zero Drop Running Shoes?
Most shoes have a slight amount of elevation to them. They are either lifted from the ground all the way around, or more elevation on the heel. We wear these types of shoes from the moment we can walk, but that essentially takes us away from the natural way our foot touches the ground. This changes the way we walk and stand as time goes on.
Zero drop running shoes, or general shoes, take us back to the way nature intended us to stand, without any lift or elevation. This is the natural way which we walk, run, stand, etc. In order to understand why all of this matters for running, we need to quickly touch on the benefits of these types of shoes.
- A natural feel when running, which makes the overall experience more comfortable, with a natural foot strike
- Better posture – You aren’t changing your posture to how the shoes make you stand, walk, or run – it’s all natural
- Reduces the chances of developing lower back pain, due to better posture
- Reduces the amount of unnecessary pressure on the lower leg, reducing stiffness, and therefore reducing the chances of injury, whether walking or running
- Allows your foot to strengthen naturally, which increases stability
These are great benefits for general life, but in terms of running, perhaps even more so. The stress and pressure you are putting on your body during running is quite great, so if you can ensure that your body is strong and stable beforehand, through returning it to its most natural state, you have a better chance of reducing injuries. A natural strike of the foot with the ground is also much more beneficial for runners, and will help propel you forward with greater speed.
The Dangers of Improperly Fitting Running Shoes
If you’ve been running for any length of time then you will know that a pair of running shoes which don’t fit you correctly are not only painful, but can cause all manner of injuries. The risks of not wearing running shoes which fit correctly are:
- Bruised toes – Wearing a pair of running shoes which are too small can bruise the ends of your toes, especially with the impact of running pushing your foot forwards
- Aching arches – At the end of a run you will notice your arches ache, and this could seriously damage the tendons which run under your foot
- Higher chance of blisters, corns, etc – Shoes which are too small, too big, narrow, or tight will drastically increase the chances of blisters, bunions, corns, etc
- Lack of support – If your shoes are too big especially, your foot it not going to be at all supported
- Plantar fasciitis
- Achilles tendinitis
- Fractures of the foot, caused by stress on the bones
- IT Band Syndrome – This affects the knee and hip, but is caused by incorrect shoes too
- Hammer toes
- Chronic pain
From that, you can see how important it is to ensure that your running shoes fit correctly, and that they feel comfortable when you move.
Why Zero Drop Shoes May be Better For Running
We know what zero drop running shoes are, in fact zero drop shoes in general, and we know why our shoes need to fit correctly, but what makes these types of shoes ideal for running in particular?
- A more natural feel – Zero drop running shoes take us back to the types of shoes our ancestors used to wear when they first discovered how to run. This gives you a natural feel, but also a more natural way to run, which doesn’t affect the alignment of your body. These types of running shoes are also more comfortable overall.
- Less chance of running injuries– Having a lift to your shoe in any position knocks your body’s natural alignment out of whack. This puts stress and pressure on parts of your body which don’t require it, e.g. knees, hips, and lower back. A higher heel can also mean you’re always being pushed forward, which isn’t a natural way to run. Zero drop running shoes take the pressure away from the knees and evenly distribute the impact. This reduces the chance of injury to any specific part of your body.
- Your foot lands correctly– The most natural way to run is so that every part of your entire foot lands on the ground, in a firm manner. Zero drop running shoes allow this to happen and the pressure and impact is evenly distributed by your calf muscle as a result.
- A lighter shoe for comfort and speed– Zero drop running shoes are minimalistic, so they re therefore lighter. This means you can run for longer, but also at faster speeds, whilst being in a constant state of comfort. If you are a competitive runner, this is ideal, but even if not, it means you can go for longer, without feeling strain or discomfort. All of this basically adds up to safer and better performance.
What to Look For in a Zero Drop Running Shoe
You’re now sold on zero drop running shoes, so what do you need to look for when buying them?
- Budget – Of course, you need your shoes to be within your budget, and not to spend too much. Minimalistic running shoes, such as the zero drop shoes, are less in price compared to the all singing, all dancing, padded types you might be used to. Switching could actually save you money!
- Reviews – Always read honest reviews before you make a decision. Product descriptions are not always reflective of the true quality fo the shoe, and the only way you will find out is by either buying it yourself, or reading the review of someone else who has. Save yourself the cash and read the reviews!
- Fit – Zero drop running shoes should fit your foot like a second skin. You don’t the extra space like you would in a regular pair of shoes, and the heel and toe section should fit comfortably
- Sock – Do you want to wear socks? You have a choice here, and you don’t have to, but you may find blisters could be an issue if you don’t. It goes without saying that if you’re going to wear socks, try the shoes on with the socks too
- How they close – You can go for straps or laces, but laces generally offer more protection and keep the shoe sturdier, compared to straps which could allow your foot to move slightly. Laces also give a more bespoke fit
- Machine washable? – This is a good way to ensure that your shoes last for longer, so look out for the care instructions
Reviews of The Best Zero Drop Running Shoes
Let’s look at five of the best zero drop running shoes to choose from.
Xero Shoes Prio – Minimalist Barefoot Trail and Road Running Shoe – Women’s
This women’s zero drop running shoe is an ideal choice for those who regularly run on roads, trails, or enjoy hiking.This makes them an all-rounder product, and therefore good value for money if you do different activities. However, these come at just under $100, which is actually quite high for this type of shoe, and comes in four different colour options.
The TrueFit rubber sole is designed to give you protection against rocky terrain, whilst allowing traction for your running. The sole is also flexible and zero drop, so you get that natural feel whilst running, and all the benefits we mentioned above. The design is quite wide on the toe box also, so you can spread out your toes and not have to deal with squashed or cramped toes whilst running.
- Designed for a woman’s foot, with wide toe box for extra comfort
- Four colour options to choose from
- Well priced for the quality
- TrueFit rubber sole adds traction and comfort
- Zero drop for all the benefits we’ve already talked about
- Recommended to order half a size larger than your natural size for proper fit
- Quite a high price
Tesla Men’s Trail Running Minimalist Barefoot Shoe
Don’t be confused by the name Tesla, this has nothing to do with cars! These best barefoot running shoes are ideal for basic requirements, i.e. simple trail running, and the other plus point is the price. These are under $30, and therefore ideal for any budget. You can also choose between a huge 8 different colour combinations, which is important for some people!
These zero drop running shoes are true to size, so you should simply order the size that you are and they will fit perfectly. Most users all state that they are extremely true to size, so no worries in that department. If however you have very wide feet, you’re advised to order a half size upwards. These shoes are lace ups and they have a very thin rubber sole, for extra protection. Put simply, a great basic shoe for runners who stick to trails, and don’t head off into uneven terrain.
- True to size when ordering
- Available in 8 different colour combinations
- Very minimalistic, making them ideal for the zero drop category
- Low price, making them ideal for any budget also
- Not recommended for any type of running or climbing which isn’t on set trails, e.g. rough terrain isn’t going to be comfortable!
- If you have wide feet, you will need to order an extra half size up
WHITIN Unisex Minimalist Trail Running Shoes
This is a unisex pair of barefoot running shoes and again, they are a fantastic price, at just under $30 per pair. You can choose between three colour options, however the upper is black on all pairs, and the sole is coloured to your choice.
These WHITIN zero drop running shoes have a rubber sole and also have the wide toe box, for extra comfort in the toe area. These are ideal for anyone who is environmentally minded, as they are made using animal-free products also. The sock-liner inside the shoe is removable, so you can go for an even more natural feel if you want to. The only real downside is that they are a little on the large fitting side, so if you are a half size, e.g. 6.5, then you should order a half size down, e.g. 6.
- Great price for a good product
- Available in three colour options on the sole
- Made with animal-free products
- Removable sock-liner inside the shoe
- Wide toe box for extra comfort
- The shoes run a little large, so if you’re a half size, you need to order a half size down
Merrel Women’s Vapor Glove 2 Barefoot Trail Running Shoe
This Merrel pair of women’s barefoot running shoes are certainly attractive and high quality, but you will pay extra for that, at between $70-150, depending on your size and colour requirement. You can choose between two colour options. The plus point is that these are a very long lasting pair of best barefoot running shoes, and that adds to the cost effectiveness over time. You can wash in cold water on a gentle cycle in the washing machine and simply leave them out to air dry.
The rubber sole is zero drop, and the outer is mesh, which is extra breathable and means you don’t have to deal with sweaty feet problems! The shoes are lace ups and have a soft footbed made of microfibre inside.
- High quality and long lasting pair of best low drop running shoes, from a big named brand
- Two colour options
- Can be machine washed for extra durability
- Mesh outer for extra breathability
- Microfibre footbed
- The price is quite high, compared to other similar products
By this point you should have a firm idea in your mind on whether zero drop running shoes are for you. We have reviewed four of the best barefoot running shoes on the market and from that, you can see the type of idea you’re dealing with.
Heading back to basics, and working with the way nature intended us to run has many benefits, and if you want to protect yourself from injuries, whist correcting your posture at the same, perhaps finding the best low drop running shoes for you, is the way forward.