What is Heel Drop in Running Shoes and How Does it Affect Your Running?

What is Heel Drop in Running Shoes

There is a lot of debate surrounding heel drop and its importance in running shoes. Some people swear by it, while others believe that it doesn’t have that great effect. In this article, we will discuss what heel drop is in shoes and whether it is important for runners or not.

When you’re looking for a new running shoe, you’ll notice that there’s quite a bit of information to take in. Heel drop is one such measurement, and it’s essential to understand what it means before making your purchase. Heel drop has been around for many years and is still a popular topic of discussion regarding shoes. It all started back 50 years ago when running became a popular way to stay in shape. Runners were looking for ways to improve their performance, so they turned to shoe companies for advice.

Explanation of Heel Drop In Running Shoes

The heel of a shoe is the back part of the shoe that elevates the heel of the foot. The toe of a shoe is the front part of the shoe that comes in contact with the ground when you walk.

Heel drop which is also called “Heel-to-toe drop”, “Shoe offset”, or “Heel differential” is the difference between the heel height and forefoot height of the running shoe. It’s measured in millimeters, and shoes can have heel drops anywhere from 0 to 14mm. Low-drop shoes have a heel drop of 1-4mm, while high-drop shoes have a heel drop of 8mm or more.

For example, a shoe with a heel height of 20mm and a toe height of 16mm would have the same heel drop as a shoe with a heel height of 32mm and a toe height of 28mm. The heel drop would be 4mm in both cases.

History of Heel Drop

Heel drop wasn’t up 50 years ago as running shoes used to be flat or nearly flat. Due to two connected factors, this began to change during the first running boom of the 1970s: First, a larger segment of the population, including many previously non-athletic people, began to run. Second, manufacturers produced shoes with more cushioned midsole to make running more comfortable for more individuals.

According to Jonathan Beverly, author of Your Best Stride, putting more cushioning in the heel than the forefoot alleviated stress on the calf muscles and Achilles tendons.

The heel-to-toe drop was not about comfort but science. Companies would measure the slope of a shoe by comparing the amount of cushioning beneath the heel with the amount of cushioning beneath the toes. This measurement allowed them to create shoes that would be more beneficial for runners.

Slowly but surely, heel drop became more popular, and manufacturers began changing their designs accordingly. However, there was no “standard” heel-toe drop until recently. In 2010, New Balance created a shoe with a 9mm heel-toe drop, and other brands followed soon after.

How Heel Drop Measured In Running Shoes

Which Heel Drop Do I Need?

Heel drop can be found in four categories: zero drop, low drop, medium drop, and high drop.

Zero Drop: Zero drop shoes are a type of running shoe that has become increasingly popular in recent years. This kind of shoe has the heel and forefoot aligned, which is in contrast to traditional running shoes where the heel is elevated higher than the toe.

Low Drop (1-4mm): Low drop shoes have a small heel-to-toe drop. This means that the heel is lower than the toe, which gives you more stability when you run. Low drop shoes are appropriate for trail runners, competitive runners wearing racing flats, and beginners.

Note: Low drop shoes offer more support than zero-drop running shoes and are an easier transition step before moving onto zero-drop options. The popularity of low-drop shoe models tends to peak every few years, while the popularity of high-drop shoes tends to be more steady.

Mid Drop (5-8mm): Mid drop shoes provide medium support and balance the foot’s natural movement. This type of shoe is good for people transitioning from traditional running shoes to minimalist shoes or those who want a little more support than what’s offered in a zero drop shoe. Mid drop shoes have a moderate heel-to-toe differential, meaning the heel is raised somewhat higher than the toes.

High Drop (8-14mm): High drop running shoes are shoes that have a high heel-to-toe differential. This means that the height of the heel is much higher than the height of the toe. The purpose of these shoes is to correct problems that can occur in your stride and help you run more efficiently. Shoes with a high heel drop are beneficial for people who are ankle prone to sprain or have Achilles tendonitis, as they provide more support and stability.

Does The Heel Drop of Shoes Affect Runer’s Performance?

There is a lot of debate on whether heel-to-toe drop affects running performance. Some people believe it affects overall performance, while others think it is only a risk if you are very active. Some researchers published papers and studies about the effect of heel drop on the overall performance of running shoe wearers.

For example, researchers at Aberystwyth University conducted a study under the name “Heel-to-Toe Drop Really That Important?”. In this study, experienced runners wore different types of shoes with different amounts of heel drops to see how it would impact their performance. In addition, different kinematics and ground reaction forces were collected to see how the runner’s movement changed with each type of shoe.

The study reported that; when compared to high heel drop shoes, wearing a low heel drop shoe resulted in an increased vertical loading rate and maximum ankle flexion moment.

Furthermore, there were changes in ankle and knee kinematics when running in regular shoes versus running barefoot. The kinematics of the ankle and knee were mostly changed by a reduced heel drop. Running with a low heel drop did not produce the same biomechanics in the lower limbs as barefoot running. These findings are significant because better knowledge of biomechanical reactions could lead to more personalized footwear, reducing the injury rates associated with running.

Which Is Better; Low Heel Drop Running Shoes or High Heel Drop Running Shoes?

There is a lot of discussion among runners about the best heel-toe drop. The truth is there is no “one size fits all” answer regarding heel drop and the best drop for you. Different runners will prefer different amounts of heel drop, depending on their individual biomechanics and running style.

You may need to experiment with a few shoes to find the right one. Some runners are passionate about shoes with zero or low heel-toe drops, while others prefer high drop options. Both types of shoes have benefits and drawbacks, so it ultimately comes down to the individual runner’s preferences and needs.

A high heel-to-toe drop may be best suited for runners with Achilles tendon issues or who land heel first. Some of our experts reported that elevated heels help them improve running form and reduce fatigue. On the other hand, a low heel-to-toe drop is good for runners who land on the forefoot or midfoot. This allows them to have a more stable landing and prevents them from rolling their ankle.

However, it is important to remember that everyone’s body is different, and some people might prefer a higher heel-toe drop while others might prefer a lower one.

The Relation Between Heel Drop & Stack Height

Picking the Proper Heel Drop for Your Running Shoes

When choosing a running shoe, it is important to consider the heel-toe drop. This is the slope of the shoe from heel to toe. You should try different shoes with different heel-toe drops to find what works best for you. Below are some factors to help you find your preferred matches that adapt your neutral stride.

Read more: Can men wear women’s running shoes


When running on natural trails, it is recommended to have a lower heel drop because the terrain is always changing. This will help you maintain running stability and reduce your chances of injury. When taking road runs, it is essential to have shoes with a higher heel stack height to help in absorbing shocks of hits.


There are two types of running strikes: heel striking (Rearfoot) and forefoot striking. Heel striking is when you land on your heel first, and forefoot striking is when you hit the ground with the front of your foot first. When the heel strikes the ground, it experiences a large load force that travels up through the heel. This force is what makes you feel like you’re being pushed forward and eventually makes you lose your balance.

There is no one perfect way to run. When looking for a heel-to-toe drop, you should consider what type of runner you are and how you like to run. Heel strikers should opt for a higher heel-to-toe drop, while those who prefer to forefoot strike can get away with a lower heel-to-toe drop.


Running isn’t recognized as being one of the gentle sports. This is especially true if you’ve had previous injuries or illnesses that limit your movement. So, taking the Heel Drop of running shoes into your account is crucial.

The heel-to-toe drop is the difference in height between the heel and toe of a running shoe. It is an important consideration when purchasing running shoes because it can affect your performance. A higher drop shoe may be better for foot, Achilles tendon, and calf injuries, while a lowered drop shoe may be better for knee and hip injuries. Also, a higher drop may be more beneficial for experienced runners, while a lower drop may be more beneficial for beginners.

If you are buying a pair of running shoes for the first time, you must consult your doctor and get a gait analysis done to ensure that the shoe is appropriate.

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