Are Zero Drop Running Shoes Good?

Zero drop running shoes do much more to help improve your running form than conventional cushioned heeled running shoes. For one, zero drop running shoes help you avoid heel striking and encourage a forefoot strike, which is the safest, most efficient way to land on your feet when running. For another, zero drop running shoes allows the Achilles tendon to be more effective at storing and releasing elastic energy, which makes your stride more spring-enabled which in turn reduces mechanical work from the muscles to move the body forward!

Are Zero Drop Running Shoes Good?

The main reason zero drop running shoes does a better job at optimizing the elastic, energy-saving properties of the Achilles tendon is by enabling the heel to drop completely down shortly after the forefoot has struck the ground (shown below).

Are Zero Drop Running Shoes Good?

In a proper forefoot strike landing when running, initial ground-contact is made on the balls of the foot, just under the 4th and 5th toes while the heel is slightly off the ground. Then, the entire forefoot and mid-foot begins to flatten down onto the ground with the heel being the very last part of the foot to contact the ground.  

The heel-dropping action is the most effective mechanism that increases elastic energy storage in the Achilles tendon, and this action is engaged best when barefoot or in zero drop running shoes, not in cushioned heeled running shoes because the heel is unable to lower. Not allowing the heel to lower to the ground not only prevents the Achilles from lengthening thereby limiting the tendons capacity to load up with elastic energy, it also strains the calves and the Achilles tendon.

In fact, a study in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, discovered that shod runners were less efficient than barefoot runners because the under-heel cushioning restricted the heel-lowering phase of which the Achilles tendon could no longer contribute elastic strain energy efficiently.

The same study also found an additional problem with not allowing the heel to drop shortly after touchdown in that it was found to increase mechanical stress on the calves and soleous which makes the Achilles tendon more vulnerable to injury. This may also be why some runners who switch from heel strike to forefoot strike running experience Achilles tendon injury because they are wearing running shoes with a raised, cushioned heel, not zero drop running shoes.

Are Cushioned Running Shoes Bad?
The under-heel cushioning of most conventional running shoes restricts Achilles tendon lengthening during the heel-dropping phase in forefoot running. This significantly limits the amount of elastic energy contributions of the Achilles tendon essentially for enhanced running economy.

What’s worse is that walking and running in cushioned heeled footwear keeps the heel elevated which keeps the Achilles tendon abnormally shortened.

The Take Home Message

Your forefoot strike is incomplete and injurious if you don’t let your heel fully drop to the ground after touchdown! The Cushioned, raised heel of conventional running shoes is an obstructive reinforcement that greatly disables spring-energy contributions of the Achilles tendon while causing the tendon to progressively shorten, putting you at risk of Achilles tendon pain and injury WHILE taking away an important source of energy essential for better running economy. 

Forefoot running in zero drop running shoes or even running barefoot is most helpful in promoting a healthier Achilles tendon length while optimizing extra energy storage in the tendon, so you can run more efficiently!

If you’ve enjoyed this blog post, you’ll love my YouTube Channel: here, where I discuss the health and performance benefits of barefoot running and I also have tons of video reviews of minimalist/barefoot-inspired running shoes suitable for forefoot running!


Pearl, DP., Daoud, AI and Lieberman, DE.(2010). Effects of footwear and strike type on running economy. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 44(7):1335-43.

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Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!