Drop is Just a Number

Published on 03/7/2018

  • Drop is Just a Number

When Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run, came out in May of 2009, runners of all ability levels gave up their traditional shoes and jumped on the barefoot bandwagon. Brands sprouted up, such as Vibram, and started selling footwear that was little more than a sock with a piece of thin rubber underfoot. While this trend worked for some, many others ended up injured and/or sitting in the waiting room at a podiatrist’s office. Today running shoe companies have given themselves whiplash from the abrupt change in direction. Most have models on the market with maximum cushioning and some companies have built their entire line on shoes with 2 to 3 times the cushioning of other brands. One of the components from the minimalist craze that has endured, however, is the lower heel-to-toe “drop” in running shoes.

“What are you talking about,” you may ask and, “Why should I care?” There’s no need to go into a deep, analytical dissertation explaining what it is. Basically, the drop (also called the offset) is the difference between the heel height and the forefoot height. A 12mm drop means the heel sits 12mm higher than the forefoot. A zero drop would mean that the heel and the forefoot sit on the same level. Pretty simple, right?

The answer to the, “Why should I care,” question is not quite so straightforward. The thought is that running in a lower drop shoe will put runners in a more balanced and powerful position and make it easier to land on the midfoot while running. A midfoot landing is believed to align the lower body correctly and absorb more impact. With the growing interest in running form and dissecting one’s gait, the drop has become an extension of that discussion.

The typical drop for most shoe manufacturers is 10-12mm. The Brooks Glycerin 15 is at 10mm, while the Adrenaline 18 comes in at 12mm. The Asics Nimbus 20 has gender-specific drops of 10mm for men and 13mm for women. With that being said, most shoe manufacturers have come out with lower drop models and some companies, such as Saucony, have gone lower drop across their full line of shoes. The bread-and-butter Saucony shoes have all gone to an 8mm drop and some of their shoes have dropped even lower to 4mm. Hoka’s family of shoes has drops of 4-5mm and companies such as Altra tout all their shoes at 0mm.

The only foolproof answer to the question, “What is the best drop to run in,” is that there is not a definitive answer. One drop does not fit everyone. Personally, over the past couple of years, I have found myself favoring shoes that have a lower drop. For me, the shoes in my closet in the 4-8mm range tend to get worn more often. This is certainly not scientifically sound, but nothing about the drop debate is.

The best advice we can give is to shake things up. Rotating at least two pairs of different shoes allows your feet to be stressed differently each day you workout. Perhaps one pair has a traditional drop and the second pair is a lower drop model. Without question, switching from a 10-12mm drop shoe to a low drop shoe takes some time to transition. In a low drop shoe, the foot and calf muscles are being used more and you may experience some soreness.

Still not sure what the best drop is for you? Come in and let one of our knowledgeable staff assess your gait and discuss any injuries you may be suffering/recovering from to determine the right shoe to keep you running strong.