Drop: It’s Hot!

Over the past couple years, one word that runners have frequently dropped when talking about their favorite shoes is: drop. The differential between the height of the heel and the forefoot (drop) has become a more important factor in how runners decide what shoes work for them. In general, forefoot runners look for shoes with 0-6mm of drop to allow for good forefoot articulation and freedom of movement, while heel strikers are generally comfortable in 10mm+ drop shoes. However, there are some exceptions to this, as a wider offering of shoes with varying structures and geometries have been released to bridge this gap and fit more niches in the market. We’ll discuss a little history, the pros and cons of each side of the aisle, and some examples of exceptions to the trend.

Historically, running shoe drops have gradually grown. In the 1960s, many shoes were around 4-8mm in classics such as the ASICS Pinto and New Balance Trackster. They then rose to 8-12mm through the advance of airbags and gel cushioning in the 90s, and eventually an all-time high of 15+mm in the Nike Shox Turbo. This trend persisted because of market demand for more and more heel cushion. Born to Run spurred a shift in the opposite direction as more runners began buying minimal drop racing flats, causing running shoe companies to respond and produce niche models, such as the New Balance Minimus line and Brooks Pure Project.

To better illustrate what this all means, go out and try on a pair of high heels (Guys, if anyone asks, just say you’re studying advanced biomechanics.). Never mind the color or how good they make your calves look, but instead focus on how your arch and ankle feel. Do you notice that they are effectively immobilized and your stability is a small fraction of what it normally is? This is an example of how too much drop in a running shoe puts your foot at too steep an angle, compromising its natural ability to stabilize itself. Demanding technical terrain found in races like the Hardrock 100 or the HURT 100 favor stable, low drop shoes that keep the foot’s center of gravity low and positions it at a stable angle.

Dominic Grossman Mt Baldy

The author illustrating low-drop control in the New Balance MT110’s on the technical mountain trails of Mt. Baldy, CA.

Now, get on a treadmill with no shoes on, and crank up the speed to your normal 10k race pace. How long can you hold it? Unless you’re an avid barefoot runner, chances are there’s much more stress in your arch and calf to provide natural/active cushioning for your stride. Active cushioning by the foot can wear on a runner in flatter, more consistent terrain, like what is often found in a road marathon or groomed fire roads. In races like the Badwater Ultramarathon or the Umstead 100 Mile, the consistent terrain often requires shoes that give more cushion and support for the repetitive, straight-away miles.

Kate DeSplinter Michigan Bluff

Katie DeSplinter utilizing the 11mm drop of the New Balance RC1400 on rolling singletrack near Michigan Bluff, CA.

Running shoe companies build varying degrees of drop into shoes to achieve unique design goals for each model. The following trends usually occur with traditional designs and technologies:

  • Higher drop shoes (10mm+) lower the levels of active cushioning required by the body and quicken the toe-off. In other words, the impact of your stride requires less tension in you foot/arch/ankles/calves/knees/quads, and immediately rolls your foot forward to toe off. The trade-off: these shoes can be heavier, less stable in technical terrain, and make active cushioning muscles weak and injury prone (i.e. IT Band Syndrome, plantar fasciitis, and patellar tendonitis).
  • Lower drop shoes (0-8mm) allow more arch and ankle articulation for better trail feel and are generally lighter, with less material. However, they also require increased active cushioning (muscles and tendons you use running barefoot to cushion your stride), and require a runner to power through their turnover with their own feet.

Though these trends are generally true, there are a few glaring exceptions:

Cushioned minimal drop
The Hoka One One Mafate (4mm drop) –  These maximalist cushioning shoes are very dynamic, as each foot strike compresses the extra soft foam as far as the runner’s stride wants to go and requires no active cushioning from the runner.

Variance in minimal drop
The New Balance MT10 “Minimus Trail” vs. the Saucony Peregrine (both 4mm) – the Minimus is much closer to the broader minimal shoe trend as it requires more active cushioning with its thin sole and flexible last, as well as a hollow arch that allows for freedom of movement in the arch and ankle. Meanwhile, the Saucony Peregrine has identical drop, but a thicker and stiffer sole accompanied with a filled in arch that makes it more supportive, cushioned and restrictive. These two shoes feature identical “minimal drop,” but each platform uses the drop in different ways. The Peregrine uses it to save weight and improve control, while the Minimus uses it to allow the foot greater freedom of motion and encourage active cushioning from the runner.

High drop variance in weight and support
The New Balance RC1400 vs. the ASICS GT-2160 (both 11mm) – The RC1400 has two hollowed out notches in the arch and heel that allow for a more natural flex and less weight. The GT-2160 has gel pads through the heel and a stiff plastic truss in the midfoot, along with a dual density foam insert under the arch to prevent any excess arch or ankle movement. The RC1400 uses the 11mm drop to replicate the feel of a more cushioned, heavier trainer while still allowing some natural foot articulation in a 7 ounce package. The GT-2160 uses the 11mm drop to mount a strong arch support and cushioning system that prevents over-pronation and efficiently transfers hard heel impacts into smooth toe offs.

Zero drop variance in cushion and protection
The Vibram Five Fingers KSO vs. the Altra Lone Peak (both 0mm drop) – The KSO offers a basic rubber outsole to protect the foot from general road debris, while allowing complete natural movement of the foot and encouraging active cushioning from the runner. The Lone Peak takes protection two steps further with a rock plate as well as significant cushioning in both the forefoot and heel. As a result, the KSO uses zero drop to deliver an honest barefoot experience while the Lone Peak utilizes it to encourage forefoot striking with ample protection.

So what is the perfect drop? At the end of the day, that’s up to you. Your terrain, biomechanical needs, and personal preferences determine your ideal combination of drop, cushioning, and support. The “minimalist movement” isn’t defined by the lightest, lowest drop shoe you can find; rather its all about finding the least amount of shoe you need to enjoy running efficiently and injury free. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • If you look for “minimalist” shoes (whatever that means to you), what factors are most important to you: heel-to-toe drop, total stack height, fore- and midfoot flexibility, weight, a certain combination of these, or something else entirely?
  • If you pay attention to such things, which heel-to-toe drop do you most enjoy running in?
  • Do you vary the drop of your shoe depending on the manner in which you’ll be using it?
  • Any folks use traditional drop (10-12mm) shoes most of the time, but mix in lower drop shoes from time-to-time?

There are 124 comments

  1. Sniffer

    This drop question has been on my mind for some time now. I have been switching between 10mm and 4mm. I like the lower drop more (pure grit vs cascadias). So excited for my Hoka's to come in:)

    Great info IRF team!

  2. Gideon

    For me its a bit of a non-issue. The more I run the less I care. I feel goed on traditional Gel asics, on all sorts of Salomon trail shoes, on Mizuno's with little drop and on Innovs with very little drop. That's easy; this way I can select my shoes on price en durability.

    But the story keeps the marketeers alive.

  3. Harold

    The high heel shoes just are not comfortable for me and significantly changed my running style in the years that I ran in them. When I came back from my latest non-running related injury, I wanted to run in lower heeled and drop shoes. In November I bought a pair Peregrines and got almost 300 miles on them without too many problems. Last week I bought the MT20s thinking that I was ready for the next step down the minimalist shoe ladder. Unfortunately, I was not and re-aggravated a minor calf strain into a no run calf pain.

    Returning to less cushion/less drop does require a little bit of work on your part and more transition than just going out and running in them. I love the feel and fit of the MT20s, but they and other shoes like them will probably require more than just putting and running in them. Which many runners don't want to deal with – they just want to run for some reason or other.

    I will make the transition to a lower drop, but it is going to take longer than I expected :-).

  4. Andy

    I definitely choose my shoe based on drop height (in addition to outsole, weight, presence of rock plate, and wideness of toe box) and have found the 4mm drop to be just about perfect for technical trail running, just enough protection to allow some room for biomechanical error, but not so much to effect the gait. Now that the shoe companies are providing minimal drop lightweight trail running options, I've been able to stop modifying my shoes by hacking off the heel etc. That being said, I think it's important for all runners to choose their shoe based on the terrain/distance/speed that they're running, as a lot of the minimalist shoes available are rather niche specific, so access to a variety of footwear is definitely advantageous. For example, over my 70-100mpw I'll vary an MT110, Merrell Trail Glove, MT10, MR10, and occasionally a VFF (if it's too cold/shiggy to go barefoot) each shoe has it's purpose.

  5. A. Bunt

    I am finding that the 8-10mm drop range is good for me right now. I'm coming off running in Asics and Brooks that have 12mm drops and have used green Superfeet which seem to add a couple more mm's. My favorite shoes currently are the La Sportiva Crosslite 2.0's with 8mm drop and a touch of mild stability control. I'm also trying out the Montrail Mountain Masochist and the Rogue Racer's for some variety. For road running, I'm still sporting the Asics 2150's but sans Superfeet, as well as some Mizuno Musha 3 road racing flats for my shorter days. I don't have the time to hit the trails every week, so most of my miles are on roads, and I find that I like a little more shoe just because of durability. Who has the money to buy new shoes every 250 miles anyway? As I am moving down in drop I have found that my stride is naturally going to a mid to forefoot strike, as my calves have been saying "hello" after each run.

  6. art

    thanks for the great explanation of this issue.

    I experiment now and then with drop difference in my shoes, but find it really confuses my foot and leg muscles when I switch to much.

    On that note, do elite, and not so elite, runners actually switch drop in their shoes mid race depending on terraine ?

    1. Dominic

      In last year's Angeles Crest 100, I was running in the MT101's through the first 30 miles which are more technical and steep. At Eagles Roost (mile 30) the terrain becomes more gradual and consistent and I switched into the RC1400. It helped my turnover in the flat and gave me some extra cushion. The 5.5 mi fireroad downhill at Shortcut (mile 59) went much better for it, so from my experience, I'd reccomend it. (A side note though, the difference in drop was only 3mm (8-11mm), but make sure you are comfortable with the switch before trying it in a race)

  7. art

    stack height

    is this simply the distance off the ground your forefoot and heal are when wearing a shoe. shoes with different stack heights can have the same drop.

  8. dogrunner

    1. Lightweight is key. 0 drop bricks are still bricks. After I started running in Mizuno Universe ( 8 oz) shoes. Weight is relative, these are my categories.

    2. Toebox width is key. If my forefoot and toes are squeezed inwards, that is just as problematic as high heels. Most shoes are too narrow for me, including current version of Merrell TGs (which I otherwise like). The wider (EE) sizes in NB are great, wish everyone else offered wider widths.

    3. Drop is important, but only part of the recipe. If I go > 4 mm drop, I start getting knee, ITB, ankle, and PF problems (like the old days). I can only assume that the raised heel messes up my gait, but I definitely overpronate when in a high heel shoe. 0-3 mm is my preferred range.

    Looking forward to this year's crop of candidates.

    1. Dominic

      1. I agree after a certain weight, your body has to work too hard to pick up the shoe and strike efficiently, and your stride gets distorted.

      2. Natural flex of the toes is very important for forefoot runners. It's a tough issue for building uppers that move with forefoot but aren't too tight. There's some very good options out there today that straddle the line quite well.

      3. Everyone has too high of a drop, and that effect of interference in the arch/ankle definitely can come with those injuries. Similarly if you're not ready for a lower drop shoe, you can get injured in other ways.

  9. Chris

    I'm finding that the 4 mm drop is a perfect compromise, and there are plenty of well cushioned as well as truly minimal options.

    I've noticed that certain knee injuries feel clearly better, for me, in the 4 mm than in 8 mm or higher shoes. (I've not liked the 0 mm shoe I tried because it strained my Achilles but maybe I just needed more time).

    For downhills, I've really liked a cushioned 4 mm shoe like the Saucony Cortana -even for trails- because it is flexible yet cushioned enough to bomb downhills, and feels very stable. On the other hand for uphills/flats I prefer a less cushioned shoe like the Inov-8 195.

    So the IDEAL shoe would morph from a cushioned flexible 4 mm shoe on downs into a minimal shoe for ups… Anyone know of one ;-) ?

      1. Chris

        Thanks, Bryon, that looks like a good candidate. (As are the Salomon Sense and MT1010, I believe.)

        And great topic, you've been hitting it out of the park the last few! Especially appreciated the ITBS blog.

        1. Alessandrots

          Chris, I run in Salomons S-lab Sense Ultra and in Montrail Fluidflex…both 4mm drop, both very light and flexible. The Salomon is more protective and aggressive, the Montrail has a wider toe box and a softer midsole. I recommend both, the Salomon is better on technical terrain, the Montrail is more comfortable in the longer runs

  10. Andrew

    If I'm going long I usually like to have some drop and cushioning just so my legs don't feel too pulverized when I'm out on the long trail. If I'm going out for a shorter jaunt no more than 10-15k I prefer to go more minimal in terms of drop and cushioning as my legs don't seem to mind. The lower (not zero) drop, cushion and weight provide efficiency, stability and what feels like a truer connection to the run for my lower legs and feet.

  11. Frenchy

    On roads I have to think about striking midfoot. When I run on trails I automatically run soley on my midfoot without any issues. I used to run in Xodus 2's, but I now run in Cascadias and PureGrits depending on the race length and terrain. I got caught up in the heel drop issue but came to the conclusion to run in what makes you comfortable, no matter the heel drop or amount of cushioning a shoe has. Just run!

  12. Steve Pero

    In the past several years I've enjoyed running in the La Sportiva Crosslites (originals) on trails and the Saucony Kinvara (4mm) on roads and this has all but cleared up a patella tendinitis I've had since the early 80's, probably from higher heeled shoes. The Crosslites only bother me in the forefoot (too narrow), so am now in search mode for a shoe that's similar to it in drop and cushion (barely none), but with a wider forefoot. Looking at the Inov-8 Roclite 295's and the NB MT110's. Any suggestions?

    1. Ben Nephew

      Hi Steve,

      The 295's are a great shoe, but if you don't need that much lug on the sole (which is likely), you should try the Terrafly 303 or 313. Although they are a bit heavier, they are very fast shoes, even when compared to some of the 200g inov-8 models. The Terrafly forefoot has plenty of room.

      1. Steve Pero

        Thanks, Ben…at age 60 (but still competitive), I'm not so much concerned about weight as protection and comfort. I'll check these shoes out.

        Hope all is well back in New England!

        1. Ben Nephew

          No problem. I think protection is underrated with respect to competition. We've been spoiled by perfect trail running conditions all winter here is southern NE, very odd!

          1. Chris

            Ben, do you feel that you can cruise downhills as fast/comfortably in some of the less cushioned Inov-8 models (once you get used to them)?

            1. Ben Nephew

              No, not on very technical and steep trails. I think I can, and it feels like I am running fast, but my watch doesn't lie. I am convinced that the feedback I get in Talons or F-lites makes it difficult to run as fast as I do in something like the 285 or the Terrafly's, at least in New England. At least part of the issue is most likely subconscious and difficult to both perceive and overcome. The key aspect to the cushioning is impact protection, especially in long races or on courses with intense downhills. If you are not an aggressive downhill runner, a more protective shoe may not provide any benefit. I know several people who love their Talons at Escarpment, but it's not protective enough to allow me to run at full speed on the downhills. Even if I can run as fast over a section technical trail in a pair of Talons, I definitely have to focus more on where I am putting my feet.

              The talons and the f-lites are very fast on fast terrain, and I wear my Talons at shorter less technical races and workouts all the time. I can see how runners in the Pacific Northwest run ultras in Talons given the terrain out there. Ironically, the f-lite's have more stone and root protection than the 190's or 212's due to the sole pattern, and the traction is better than most expect.

            2. Davide

              New Trailroc 255 and 245 might be the perfect combination of low drop (6 and 3), some protection underfoot (especially the 255) and good traction without the aggressive lugs of the talon or roclite but still good traction.

              I'm currently loving both, Inov 8 is really making a big step forward with them.

          2. Chris

            Ben, I've had the same experience (of being slower while feeling fast-oh well) on the steep technical stuff. On really fast non-technical descents, do you find the less cushioned shoes are as fast, but eventually more tiring?

  13. Kim Neill

    I think New Balance has really nailed it, although traction could still be a little better. I've settled on the 110s & Minimus for trails and the 730 for the roads and smooth trail. Good fit, wide forefoot, 4 mm drop (730 is 3mm), and some cushioning depending on model.

    I've run in LS Crosslite (original; nice shoe but a little narrow in the forefoot, even with mesh overlay cut off); Salomon Speedcross (too much heel, but great traction); Saucony Kinvara (poor fit and overly squishy), Peregrine (ok, but a little clunky), Hattori (good for road runs which I don't do much of).

    I've settled on the New Balance for all my running needs.

    1. Dominic

      Good to hear! The 730 is a great example of the increased demmand for minimalist shoes opening up more and more options for runners. The MR00 at 0 drop at 12/12 is pretty minimal, but the 730 at a 3mm drop at 16/13 gives just enough cushion and support to be used everyday by more runners while still giving a pretty authentic minimalist exeperience.

  14. Dean G

    In every other sportwhere human beings use equipment, we would say people were NUTS if they all expected to use the exact same gear… Golf clubs, baseball bats, bicycles, tennis racquets, and shoes for all of those sports… just to scratch the surface…

    Have you, Mr. 6' 4" tried skiing on your 5'2" wife's skis lately? Maybe we should all use the exact same prescription in our glasses?

    Yet, we are being told by (some) Advertisers there is a perfect drop for the one true stride.

    Long live a variety of drops for a variety of running styles. Please, Shoe Companies, keep making 0mm, 4mmm, 8mmm, AND 10mm, 12…etc.

    So that everyone can find the shoe (or lack thereof) that allows them to run pain free, all-day.

    1. Dominic

      The main goal for offering a greater variety of running shoes is to get more people into running. It used to be that if you gave 90% of new runner enough good cushion and support, they'd enjoy running enough to stick with it. Nowadays, minimalist running is like fixed gear bicycles: it's not about having an easier experience, but rather a biomechanically interesting experience for the human body. The increased sensation found running in minimalist running shoes is a good win-win that gives people what they want and has sold well.

  15. Alex M

    I think that there is a place for all drops. Sometimes to recover you may want that extra cushion to give certain muscles a break. The question ends up being and experiment of one, example: love my Altra Instincts for long runs, Newton Gravity for Performance Runs, and Hoka Mafate for recovery runs, all are 3-4mm drop. Thanks for putting out solid articles and reminding everyone that drop is not all its about its about whats going to keep you going and smiling.

  16. David

    It's amazing the amount of adaptation my Achilles needed to just go from the traditional 12 mm to 9. For me, the 6-8mm range seems to be the sweet spot (for now).

  17. Phil Jeremy

    I got some Cascadia 6's a few months ago and my calves don't feel to happy.Should I switch back to a higher drop to give them a rest for a while or persevere (I like the 6's as they are super comfy)Any advice?

  18. Anonymous

    First off, this is the best article about shoe I've seen on this site.

    I have dabbled in the 4-0 drop and find it hard to use a normally padded shoe because your foot seems to slide back and forth inside the shoe with each stride. Because of the minimal weight on most, there seems to be a lack of cushioning and padding to hold your mid-foot in place. The fabric the shoe is made out of usually fits like a glove and is exceptionally comfortable but lacks the taughtness of most shoes with a drop of 8 and up. Most of the higher drop shoes have a very good arch that compensates the free movement of your foot and prevents the sliding around.

    On another note with the sliding, is when heading down hill you toes seem to jam into the front of your shoes with the lack of the support.

    I admit I have a high arch so most other readers may be in complete disagreement with me.

    The only brands I have in the lower drop range are Hokas and La Sportiva.

    My feet slide in the Hokas due to the lack of forefoot flex and the La Sportiva's lack the good midfoot fit so my feet don't stay put going down hill and jam my toes into the top of the footbed of the shoe.

    I never have this problem with a higher drop shoe and just wonder if the fit of a higher drop is for me or is this a common problem with lower drop shoes?

    1. Dominic

      Thank you!

      The general trend you're seeing is that bigger soles have required more hearty upper materials to keep the sole attached. In the past, shoes like the Montrail Hardrock and North Face Ultra 105 had meaty overlays to keep the thick, stiff, tank-like soles attached to the foot. This generally contributed to gnarly blisters (commonly found in old ultra running horror story movies).

      The trend with minimalist shoes was to thin out everything, as less sole usually requires less upper. Admittedly, there was/is a disjunct in technology as thinning out a sole is much simpler than thinning out upper. This year though, some of the best uppers on minimalist shoes have been released. The MT110 is based on snug kangaroo leather soccer cleats that hug perfectly, and the Saucony Perregrine 2 is designed to fit much more precisely. I'd reccomend trying a few more brands to find that perfect combo, as the best sole in the world is worthless without a good upper.

  19. Ocram

    I run in my Bikilas anywhere from 3-8 miles 2-3 times a week. My other short runs are in the Minimus-road for some perceived feeling of recovery and I also use the Minimus-road for my long runs. On trails I strictly use the MT10s. I did invest in the MT110, which I am excited about, but I have to wait until I have fully recovered from a stress fracture to my metatarsal. But I must say that I have never enjoyed running until I slipped a pair of Nike Frees and ran in them on a short dirt road, been hooked since. it took me about 6 months to adapt to the Bikilas and another 4 months to build up the milage but boy do I love running in them.

    1. Ocram

      addendum: I must add that running in minimal footwear is NOT the cause of my injury but the lack of discipline in controlling my urge to run more milage.

  20. Zen Trail Clown

    All of this reminds me of the root of human suffering…setting up a problem–by using the mind–where there actually is no problem in the first place. The foot is perfect the way it is. All cushion and all positive drop is ultimately for competition (go faster, go harder, go longer, avoid having to slow down). Anyone who says that their sweet spot is a positive drop shoe just hasn't learned to develop their sweet spot in a zero drop platform. The sweet spot is the same either way. Just like when go after spirituality by separating ourselves from spirit and then trying to grab it back through our own efforts. Our true nature is always there, no need to search for it, you just have to abide in it. Same as zero drop and positive drop…we create cushioned shoes and then try to re-find our foot health. If you go slow enough, abide within Awareness, and stop trying to find the sweet spot, then you'll find the sweet spot was always there to begin with. We have such a warrior mentality in this country, in spiritual matters and in ultrarunning. The zero drop movement should reduce arguments, but it seems to have caused so much controversy. Again, it's not about the sweet spot. Because if you go slow enough and let the foot adapt, it will find the sweet spot with zero drop shoes. All positive drop shoes are a means to an end (stronger faster longer), which is fine as long as we acknowledge it and don't try to convince ourselves that our feet are more suited for positive drop shoes.

  21. Jerome B.

    All I have to say is as a former shod runner to being someone who goes from completely barefoot to zero drop "shoes" depending on the distance now, don't knock it 'til you've tried it. I can only speak from my personal experience, but what I've found is that in the past 3 or so years that I've been running in minimalist "shoes" my form has improved, my running comfort has gone way up and I have had ZERO injury. Like anything new a new style/method/form of running takes time, effort and most of all commitment. So if you're hating on the movement simply because you're afraid of change, then you are giving nothing short of an uneducated, untested personal opinion. That being said, if you have given running in a less cushioned less supportive shoe with a minimal to no drop and you still don't like it, more power to you. Lastly, running is a very personal journey for us all yet it's the commonality that brings us "runners" together… So instead of bickering back and forth as to whats best, we should instead embrace the fact that in world so grand, with such diversity, running is the one thing that makes us a part of something so uplifting, empowering and unique. To all my fellow runners, minimalist or not- CHEERS!

  22. Sam Winebaum

    All my shoes road and trail are now about 4mm drop: Brooks Pure Flow and Grit, Hokas, Peregrine.

    Like some cushion especially for the road so the Pure models are my current favorites.

    Since I "dropped" hamstring issues and general soreness after hard workouts has gone way.

    Do not run ultras where adding some heel lift to the 4mm I think would be beneficial in later miles.

    All shoes under 10 oz expect for Technica Diablo Max, cousin to Hokas, which I really am growing into despite their weight 12.7 oz size 9! Rocker design really works in this maximalist shoe.

    1. Tiffany Guerra

      :) I agree, Andrew, I have one pair of shoes and I wear them until they have holes in them, then I get another! It's still fun to read these articles and think about all the shoes I will have *one* day when I start making all that money…

      1. Andrew

        High 5! I also run until my shoes almost fall off my feet. Which is probably why I obsess over these articles – if I make the wrong choice I am stuck with them for miles and miles and miles…

  23. James Arnold

    I was looking for a suggestion of a shoe. I ran 2011 Ice Age 50 in a pair of NB MT101. I am now running primarily in NB MT110. I am signed up for upcoming American River. With half on paved bike trail and half on rolling single track should I try to go with something with more cushioning like the NB 1400?

    1. Dominic

      Ah, American River.. Well, it's a interesting race: a road marathon and then a trail marathon. The 890v2 got lowered to 8mm and is now available. Good cushion, and only 9oz :)

      Personally, I'd race in the 1400 as it's a good tweener between road and trail. However, the 11mm drop will feel significant without some retooling, so I'd take a knife and trim the sides of the heel to help the drop lower quicker and catch less edges in the technical trail sections (if you can get a cobbler to lower the drop, that's even better!). Also, I put shoegoo on the foam in the forefoot to make it a little more protective. These are just my personal views though, so don't hold me to it. I'm personally willing to retool the shoe because I like the way it fits and how light it is.

      1. JC

        I have been wearing the 1400s for a year now as my training/racing shoe ever since they were recommended to me by a super-fast New Balance trail runner. When I read that the drop is 11mm I was very surprised. I run in the RC1400s and MT110s and really don't notice much difference. So, 5 minutes of Google has it measured at both 11 and 8mm depending on which site you go to. The RC1400 youtube video has the rep saying 11mm at toe and 19mm at heel for a 8mm drop. Now that feels right.

        Whatever the difference- the 1400 is the best "trail" (I know it is not marketed for trails) shoe I have ever worn! I don't remember any issues with traction at Pine to Palm 100 or Waldo 100K. Both the MT110s and 1400s handle the crazy, steep, gnarly downhill equally to me. I see the 1400s worn a lot here in the Oregon Siskiyou mountains. IMO the greater drop of the 1400 over the MT110 is much appreciated when the trail flattens and I want the slope to assist with my midfoot strike.

        Therefore, in my opinion: Yes! the 1400 would be my best choice for American River- or any trail race south of Colorado.

        I must confess that I really want to promote the 1400 so that NB keeps making them.

        1. Dominic

          It's good to see their popularity spreading! I think that filled in midfoot and gradual drop make it very well rounded for lots of different terrain. Additionally, the Japanese style fit (slightly narrow heel/arch, wide toebox) help it fit and handle suprisingly well on trail and have yet to give me a blister or callus.

  24. mtnrunner2

    I'm amazed at how some people dismiss something that is new, apparently unable to see the virtues or that other peoples' needs are driving this.

    Personally I've never liked clunky heels, have always run with a relatively flat/midfoot landing, and have gravitated towards the thinnest soles I could find. I welcome both zero drop and wide toe boxes.

    Also, not everyone has perfect stride mechanics. If you do, you probably have more latitude concerning what's on your feet. I can't run in high-heeled sneakers without cramping my toes and slipping into bad form habits. Fast cadence and flat soles make all the difference for me.

    1. Dominic

      It's funny because in the 80's there were people complaining about thicker heels showing up and "ruining things", so now the shoe is on the other foot ;) Keep an open mind always, the best runners are usually trying a variety of gear, nutrition, and training methods and adopting the best of each.

  25. Greg Jensen

    Excellent discussion! I too am still experimenting, and feel like I'm in a transition. I have dropped the high drop motion control shoes and orthotics I've been wearing for 15 years. Currently running with the 4mm drop Saucony Peregrine. The lower drop is helping me with my form. For me, my form was causing my injuries over the years, I believe. I tried to stride out too far, had too strong of a heel strike and was pounding down on the midfoot. My knees were hating it.

    So I think the effect minimalist shoes has on running form and running form in general has to be part of the zero drop discussion as well. I'm anxious to transition into a zero drop and shoe and see how that helps my form even more. I think I might try the Altra Lone Peak, as I spend a lot of time on trails, often technical.

    1. Dominic

      Try out as much as you can, it definitely pays off in long races to be absolutely confident that you have the exact gear you need for the job. I think these more precise models are allowing ultra runners to unlock a little bit more potential in their stride, which over a 10-100 miles can be quite substantial.

  26. Adam Beer

    Horses for courses. I rotate 8 pairs of shoes, all with different drops. Flats for racing all distances. Free's for the track. 4mm kinvaras for tempo days or up to 20km easy runs. 11mm Boston 3's for anything over 35km on long flat ashphalt runs. I find the differences in drops gives my foot slightly different workouts giving them chances to strengthen in all scenarios reducing stress in just one continuous area

  27. Patrick Cawley

    Okay, personally I opened this post because of the thumbnail pic of the Strength Shoes (with the giant platform on the forefoot). I guess I've been a shoe geek since sixth grade, when I bought those shoes with dreams of dunking in basketball. I'd like to see an iRF review of the Strength Shoe and its absurdly negative "drop."

  28. Ben Nephew

    Davide,

    I was trying to avoid bring up the trailrocs, since they won't be on sale here for a few months, but they are a great combo between lightness, protection, and cushioning. I had a hard time believing that they did not have a rock plate, the protection is pefect for the trails in my region. The 245 and 255 compare well with the 285 and 315 in terms of protection and cushioning, but with a more accomodating fit and significantly less weight. Most people could cover all of their training and racing between the two shoes. I've been missing the 280's for quite a while, I think the 245's are a great replacement for that shoe.

    Chris,

    Would you be referring to something like the Headlands trails? Yes, you pay for the lack of cushioning eventually unless you have legs of steel. I've seen a number of runners that try to go very light fade in the latter miles.

  29. Ben Nephew

    Do you have Morton's foot? I'm not sure how you can rule out your shoes as a factor in your stress fracture. That type of injury is pretty common in runners doing a lot track work in spikes, or road workouts in flats.

    1. Ocram

      No, I do not have a Morton's foot. I merely wanted to stress that wearing the minimal shoes did not directly cause the injury but the "a lot" of running beyond my physical ability to recover has caused the injury. since my injury the Bikilas have gained a negative attention among my friends which is why I wanted to underline….it is not the footwear but the overuse, the lack of attention to recovery that cracked the bone. so don't knock the shoe but the user.

  30. Chris

    Art, yes, that's correct. You could have a 0 drop shoe with stack heights of 50 mm (heel) and 50 mm (forefoot). It'd be funny looking though.

  31. fredpendergrast

    Ha ha, I really have to laugh at most of these comments. Talk about tech weenies… Let's face it, put Matt Carpenter or Killian Jornet on a shoe with 4 mm less drop and the result will be…they still dominate. I mean come on, 4 millimeters is about one eighth of an inch. Wholeheartedly agree with the above commentator who sees this whole issue as another Madison Avenue ploy to create a need where one didn't exist before. Guess what it will be next? It will be runners using a really big drop for going uphill (like a climbing bar on skis) and then switching to even a negative drop for going downhill, or wait, maybe a shoe that allows you to dial in your own level of drop and change it on the fly. "What's your sleep, I mean drop number?, mine is 7.25 mm for inclines up to 12%."

    1. MikeZ

      fredpendergras: you can hit a tennis ball with one racquet all year round OR you can hit it with different racquet strung at different tension for different condition. The same goes to any gear related to a sport.

      Killian Jornet DOES dominate with a pair of 4mm drop shoes and he probably did not choose the heel-toe drop by accident. There is nothing wrong with the lesser runners like me or the aforementioned commenters to experiement with what's comfortable on a particular running surface. Low drop shoes happen to work well on technical trails (for me) as it feels more stable due to increase in proprioceptive feedback and it's not marketing mumbo jumbo but scientific fact. Everyone is built a bit differently and therefore feel most comfortable with a specific type of shoes. It's techie because the options are there for us now. We are free to choose right ?

    2. Dominic

      If you can run a course just as fast in different shoes, then I applaud you. I think Killian and Matt Carpenter can finish just about any race in any shoe, but their CR's are usually only possible in their favorite shoes. If you put them in a heavier shoe, and they don't run as fast. The shameless marketing you speak of is more about offering shoes in 10 different colorways, which has no effect on performance.

    3. Randy

      Well Fred,if you think 4 mm less drop is no big deal,your calves may beg to differ.Kinda like the back braces used by so many,helps protect the back from over-use,but it's alot better to strengthen the back than always relying on a brace for support.

  32. Danny Messex

    Hint, anytime for any occasion I request gift certificates for stores that sell shoes. REI, Roadrunner Sports, Zombie Runner. At REI you get a dividend back even on gift certificates so I win twice. I found the New Balance 110's at Dillards.

    1. Andrew

      I am unfortunately in NZ where prices are horrendous (approx USD$200!), and not all shoes are available (we cant get the MT110s here…)

  33. Graeme McCallum

    The drop on the Fellcross is actually 4mm , awesome shoe , just started using them to get used to the drop from the 9mm Speedcross, the fit and feel is almost the same but the lightness and more stability from the lower drop are really great . Gonna save these for racing

  34. xplantrunner

    I used to run on the road in NB 940's with an orthotic, so a massive stack height and a massive arch support, this was advised after repeatitive bouts of PF, but it didn't really solve the problem. Like most i read 'Born To Run' and thought i would try the minimal approach. i had 2 weeks off completely and started exercises to aid the transition.

    I run on the English fells in NB 101's and find them absolutely perfect for most of the routes as they generally include very steep descents. Once the MT10's came i out i bought a pair and slowly transitioned, i'm now running comfortably in those on most terrain, but revert to 101's for grip.

    I've also began the transition to zero drop with Saucony Hattori's, up to 4 miles pretty comnfortably. I must admit though i think the zero drop shoes will be more for strength and condition than as an all run shoe.

    I like the 4mm drop for the inevitable hell landings on some decents, really looking forward to the UK release of the Mt110's and hopefully the 1010amps.

  35. Jeremy

    The MT 101 was nearly perfect with its 9mm drop, perfect fit upper, priced right and a FAST shoe. It needed a better tractioned sole and perhaps a tad more cushion in the forefoot. A 9 oz MT 101 would have won so many 50 to 100 milers. But, they had to move along the marketing machine- less is more right? Too bad.

    1. Dominic

      I understand the niche you're looking for. When you think about it, there's a ton of niche's out there, and eventually one company or another will fill that niche. I think you'll like the MT1010, and will find that it is a solid shoe for racing 50's and 100 milers. The MT110 is a bit more nimble for extremely technical terrain and very efficient forefoot runners, (though this is somewhat of a narrow niche) it is spot on for it's design goals. Eventually this detailed, intricate design method gets applied to more niches, and it is more than worth the wait.

      1. David

        Jeremy,

        Although I cannot offer you a review, I'd say try to new Fuji Trail Racer from Asics. Seems to be a perfect alternative for the MT101 crowd.

  36. james arnold

    It might just become a favorite. Out here on the east side, long "trail runs" are by necessity a combination of trail/road runs. When stitching together trails with a mile or two of asphalt, a more aggressive trail shoe can feel a bit harsh.

  37. fredprendergrast

    To MikeZ:

    Your statement that, " it feels more stable due to increase in proprioceptive feedback," pretty much proves that you've bought the Madison Avenue line. Sorry, but there's really no 'scientific fact' to show an 'increase in proprioceptive feedback' on shoes with less drop. It's just an ad phrase which doesn't really mean anything but sounds good.

    1. MikeZ

      fredprendergrast: actually, there IS scientific evidence that flatter shoes which is low to the ground increases ankle proprioception. However, it needs to be both flat and low to to the ground to increase sensory feedback. On top of that, ankle is more unstable in plantar flexion upon contacting the ground. Yup, you would have heard shoe company quoting it too but there is an overlap between marketing and science. It's hardly informed choices but each to their own because some would tell you the beneift of wearing a particular brand of shoes (cough* Asics) which is suitable for lady runners during their period. You haven't seen the masses emptying the shelves of those special menstrual cycle shoes and same applies to minimalistic line. Once again, it comes down to personal preference.

    2. David

      Actually aren't we simply reserving the "Madison Ave" sales job we endured from the early 80's through the late 2000's? "Madison Ave" told us we needed mattresses under our heels and we bought it for 30 years. We're just reversing the clock by 30 years. I guess I could be bitter that "they" are also cashing in but someone has to make the shoes.

  38. Pablo

    Kim, thanks for the info on the NB 730's. I had never heard of them but they sound like exactly what I'm looking for, for the reasons Dominic mentions.

    If you have any links to good reviews or sources of info about the 730, please share; I'd like to learn more about this shoe.

    Specifically, I'd love to know how they compare to the Minimus Road, which is one of the shoes I currently use.

  39. Andrew

    Ben – I am trying to decide between the Flite 230 and the TerraFly 303 (which I have just noticed). I run on a mix of asphalt/gravel roads and some hard pack non-technical trail. Currently in VFFs, but I want a bit more shoe! Which would you recommend? Are either of these suitable for a bit of road and the odd 1/2 marathon here or there? I understand the terraflys have the endurance sole which will wear slower right?

    Cheers

    Andrew

    1. Ben Nephew

      I've seen a number of people go from VFF's to 230's, or add that shoe to their collection. Other guys on the inov-8 team have run sub 15 minute 5k's in the 230, I've run several road 50k's in 230's, they are great at trail races of pretty much all distances, as Dave James won the Burning River 100 in 230's. From putting several hundred miles on both soles, and seeing the wear on some of my teammates shoes, the f-lite sole will last longer on the road. I'd try the f-lites first unless you end up needing something for technical trails where the added protection of the Terrafly's would be appreciated.

      1. Andrew

        Awesome – thanks for the reply. Great to get feedback from someone that has used these a lot. I originally wanted the F-lites but then leaned towards the terrafly assuming they might last longer due to the "endurance" sole (its slightly wider fit also appeals), but the light weight and durability you mention getting has me leaning back towards the f-lites. Sounds like I'll probably be happy with either!

  40. Andy

    Great info and lively banter. As a good ol' cynic, I do think there is *some* truth to fredpendergrast's comments. Reminds me of back when I used to do a lot of road cycling and watch people obsess over ounces and carbon v. aluminum, etc., only to watch a great rider on an old Schwinn 10-speed blow them away!

    That said, I have transitioned from 12 mm drop shoes the past year, initially in an attempt to overcome PF (which has been tremendously successful), and I attribute much of that success to the strengthening and better form that came with progressive addition of the Minimus (trail and road) into the routine. Now I run exclusively in 4 mm drop shoes (love, love, love the MT110s!), including MR10s on the road and MT110s on the trail, with occasional runs in PureGrits.

    And what really is the deal with feeling so much faster in minimalist (i.e., light and low drop) shoes? Is it really all subjective? Comments above say the clock doesn't lie. Perhaps it's both condition and distance specific. Still, like the Chili Peppers' lyric says, "I prefer to go by feel."

  41. mushmouph

    adidas kanadia 4 tr is my shoe after many faithful years in montrails starting with the vitesse and ending after the sabino.

    i have pondered the drop discussion from an engineering standpoint. it is more complex than the difference between forefoot and heel. assume a right triangle and there is enough information to calculate an angle if you know the length between the forefoot and heel. assume the length to be 200mm. a 10mm drop shoe has an angle of 2.9 degrees while a 5mm drop has an angle of 1.4 degrees.

    however if the length is increased to 300mm the angles drop to .95 and 1.9 respectively.

    .95/1.4= ~68%, 1.9/2.9=~65%. these are the percent difference in the angle of the shoes with the same drop. while the difference between the 5mm and 10mm on the same length is about 50% difference.

    this totally ignores the compression of the materials, slope of the terrain and other such relevant variables.

    hopefully some of the geekier shoe geeks are still reading because i am really puzzled by this. it looks like marketing over science.

    can anyone suggest a site that describes how to measure and modify soles? i know you can saw through the sole but if the blade is not totally normal to the surface it will induce a cant into the shoe. also what is the preferred glue for reassembly?

    you can learn a lot about your foot fall by walking/running with foam ear plugs. it isolates the sound the impact. i would be curious to read what someone with a quiver of drops has to say about a comparison of the sound vs drop.

    thanks dominic and brian for another brainful of stuff to ponder when i am out there.

  42. Ben Nephew

    You do realize that Ricky Gates won Mt. Washington last year with a huge wedge glued onto the heel of his shoes, right? I know that at the very least Dave Dunham has used a similar strategy in the past, probably others. It's pretty awkward on the flatter sections.

    Thinking about this issue and only considering the effects at individual races is missing the point, though. In addition to being talented, guys like Carpenter and Killian train pretty hard. In general, many competitive athletes train as hard as they can without getting injured, and it is common for small changes to have significant effects. The biggest advantage to most runners is consistent training, although there the overall effect may be negated by runners who are drinking too much Kool Aid.

    If the right shoe did not make a difference to competitive athletes, why do runners that go through the effort to get sponsored by shoe companies run races in shoes from other companies? This happens all the time at ultra, trail and mountain races.

    I do agree that drop is probably not the most important feature of a shoe in most circumstances, but as noted, it can be the difference between being healthy and achilles tendonitis, a calf strain, hamstring issues, etc. The complicated aspect with drop right now is the association between cushioning and drop in most shoes. If you change both at the same time, it's hard to know which factor was most beneficial, or damaging.

    I think one of the biggest advantages to lower drop shoes is with shorter races. Even in high school and college, I never thought it made much sense to do the majority of your training in shoes with a heel, and then race in flats or spikes. My calves never liked that very much. My racing is the most consistent with my training when I am doing a significant amount of my mileage in my race shoes or something similar.

  43. Dominic

    I think of that relatively small difference in drop similar to playing the lottery. Play the lottery once, and you can almost guarantee you won't win, but play it 1,000 times in a day, and your chances go up dramatically. Similarly, there are 55,000 foot steps in a marathon, and that variance becomes much more noticeable.

    I've heard bandsaws are the way to go. I think of you cut slow and use well drawn lines, you should do alright. Shoe goo is a pretty good material for all my shoe surgeries.

    I never heard about the earplugs idea, but I'll try it sometime.

  44. Dominic

    I think there's usually two ways to look at how a race will go: realistically and idealistically. On the best of days those two overlap, and on the worst, well it's pretty embarassing. In my race plans for my best days, I believe that I'm actively acttacking and running the course for 100% of the day. The really special CR's out there are usually that A-type of running. For me, I personally think of A-type racing while wearing the lightest, low drop shoe I can wear.

    However when I have bad days, and I'm crawling, that comes back to bite me in the butt when I'm too tired to keep propper form. So, there's an arguement for claiming realistically all CR's will be in cushioned and supportive shoes because no one runs perfectly for 100 miles.

    I think that the sport is still in it's early days of technology and athlete ability. There aren't any elite's that are the sons or daughters of elite trail runners. Kilian is the closest with parents that were mountaineers, and it shows that he is perfectly comfortable on UTMB or WS trails in 4mm drop shoes. So, in my most ideal of idealisms, I think more CR's will come in lighter shoes as athletes get better at using minimalist technology. But who knows, maybe realistically, humans just aren't capable of that much adaptation!

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