The benefits of running are undisputed and enjoyed by people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities the whole world over. There’s nothing quite beats the freedom of slipping on your running shoes, heading out into the fresh air and clocking up a few miles while listening to your favorite playlist. Lately, many of the more technically savvy sports brands have been jumping on the Drop Zone bandwagon and developing running shoes that are meant to enhance a runner’s overall performance. Sounds like sweet music to our tired feet! This new breed of low drop running shoes which still offer some cushioning against the pounding of the pavement but which are designed with a minimal toe-heel drop is thought to have plenty of benefits. Not least because they allow a runner to experience a uniquely natural running style. We’ve put our favorite runners and riders to the test to compile our pick of the best zero drop shoes currently available on the market right now. Read on to see if you can pick up the perfect pair for you.
The Best Zero Drop Running Shoe
Off to a flying starting and straight out of the running blocks with our Best Choice shoe today from Saucony. You don’t have to be a fan of running to be familiar with this popular brand who offer an extensive range of running as well as walking shoes all featuring that Saucony trademark comfort fit and enhanced feel and performance. We’ve picked out their Cohesion 10 Running shoes today which the brand market as being your everyday training partner. They deliver an excellent level of cushioning for a low drop running shoe and plenty of flexibility too.
This is a no-nonsense training shoe, and while they’ve not thrown all of their toys at the design or the technology, they have created a perfectly adequate lightweight running shoe that’s affordable and dependable. If you’re new to running or only ever intend doing it recreationally or you are budget conscious, then the Cohesion 10 is an excellent choice. It features a nice and roomy toe box and a secure fitting midsole section that’s made up of injection molded EVA cushioning. The outsole features Saucony’s latest Tri-Flex configuration while the upper delivers a well-padded and comfortable collar and tongue with plenty of breathable soft mesh fabric. The addition of reflective detailing on the uppers makes theses Cohesion 10’s a smart choice for late night running sessions too. Make sure you also check our guide to the best trail running shoes for men.
Offers plenty of flexibility and cushioning
Available in wide range of colors and sizes
Feature reflective elements for low light running
Comfortable and lightweight even after long-running sessions
- ModelGRID COHESION 10-M
- Weight12 ounces
Runs a little narrow
If comfort and cushioning are top of your list, then the Hoka One Clifton 2 Running Shoe won’t disappoint. It’s a lightweight, durable as well as a very comfortable and responsive low drop running shoe. It’s the perfect general training shoe thanks to that early stage meta-rocker design that really allows you to transition effortlessly from heel to toe for full ground contact.
The shoe is designed with a beefy padded tongue which means even if you go on long runs, you won’t find any pressure or discomfort from the lace-up system and the upper itself is nicely padded and quite thick, without compromising the lightweight nature of the running shoe. It fits snugly at the heel to provide plenty of solid support, but there’s wiggle room up front in the toe area. The upper utilizes plenty of breathable mesh for your comfort, and the seamless construction helps deliver an irritation-free ride. The outsole is a mix of materials including compression molded EVA as well as Hi-Abrasion lightweight rubber to provide excellent traction and stability. It’s an excellent full ground contact running shoe. You may also like our guide to the best trail running shoes for women.
Ultralight no-sew construction
Early Stage Meta-Rocker Geometry
EVA compression molded midsole
Full ground contact design
- BrandHOKA ONE ONE
No, sew construction
Fast and responsive
Bright color schemes
Bulky sole unit
From Altra, these Torin 3 athletic shoes are remarkably comfortable and seriously supportive too. There’s plenty of cushioning and a nice wide toe box which provides just the right amount of support especially across the width of your foot. The shoe is based on the brand’s popular Altra road shoe but has been adapted to be more breathable and given an updated FoorPod outsole which makes it more naturally flexible and better able to map and support the bones and tendons of the foot.
The shoe is made throughout of high-quality materials and besides that rubber outsole also features an EVA midsole which boosts the comfort and stability of the ride. It’s lightweight, responsive and flexible and your feet will remain cool and dry even when you are out on a usually long, hot and sweaty run. If you enjoy the natural feeling of running barefoot, but you want to minimize your chances of injury by investing in a pair of zero drop shoes that provide the perfect level of support then check out the Altra Torin 3.0. Be sure to also check out our list of the best high tops for more great items like this.
Designed to improve natural foot positioning
Zero Drop platform with FootShape toe box
EVA midsole with A-bound top layer and InnerFlex
- ModelMen’s Torin 3
- Weight 3 pounds
Sizing runs small
This featherlight zero drop trail running shoe from popular brand Merrell certainly has lots going for it. The Merrell Vapor Glove 2 is a solidly dependable barefoot-style running shoe that really functions exceptionally well and looks pretty stylish too. The design liberates your run so that you can enjoy that fully flexible and naturally running movement with zero drop ground contact. If you love getting out and about every day running and training, then this is an excellent, durable choice.
From a design and construction perspective, the footbed has been integrated with the outsole to create one unit which delivers a minimalist running experience but one which is still comfortable and supportive. The upper is made from breathable mesh that ergonomically molds to the foot for an uninhibited stride and feet are kept warm yet fresh at the same time. That’s because the mesh lining is breathable and odor wicking. Overall we rate this Merrell Vapor Glove 2 highly both for its features and also its relative affordability. Our handy guide to the best white sneakers features more great products like this.
Low profile trail style running shoe
Feature a lace up vamp and pull tab
Traction support from Vibram outsole
Breathable mesh construction
- ModelVAPOR GLOVE 2-M
- Weight2 pounds
Sizing runs large
Next up we’re looking at what Altra has to offer when it comes to their take on the zero drop running shoe with their Escalante running shoes. It comes in a range of colors and sizes so there’s bound to be something that will fit and suit your style. The outsole has been constructed from a slip-resistant rubber whereas the upper is made from a comfortable engineered knit. With the combination of both those elements what you’re getting is a super soft running shoe that shouldn’t cause you any stress or strain.
While this running shoe is definitely designed in that drop zone style, it does have an amount of cushioning which makes the ride more comfortable and enjoyable. This is a great sports shoe not just to help improve your natural running form but also for general training purposes. The shoes are soft and offer a decent fit, and for anyone with wider feet looking for a broad toe box, these are considered an excellent option. The purpose of that wider toe box is to improve your running style by allowing the toe to splay which results in better stability, push-off, and speed. Overall these Escalante’s offers a sleek design aesthetic and a sock like flexible fit and feel. They’re designed with both the fashion savvy and the performance conscious in mind. With a proprietary blend of Altra EGO foam, they also deliver the perfect balance between luxurious cushioning with responsive and dynamic return. Love this product? Check out our review of the best basketball sneakers for our top picks.
Foot shape toe box allows toes to relax
Zero drop heel to toe platform
Altra ego dual nature midsole for responsive energy return
Outsole Footpod technology
- Weight 3 pounds
With their stylish and minimalist good looks, these Inov-8 Bare XF 210 V 2 Sneakers are favored by fans of CrossFit and not just natural style running. With a wide toe box that promotes the splaying of your toes, with these zero drop shoes you can get real purchase and grip plus reliable and stable traction thanks to a sticky sole. They’re lightweight to wear, and that close to the group sensation is a hit with many weight training enthusiasts too. They’re super grippy, and that outsole does a great job of protecting your feet from the elements yet still delivers plenty of forefoot flexion due to the use of Meta-Flex technology.
Inside the Bare-XF 210 sits a 3mm Power Footbed that adds plenty of cushioning and helps provide shock absorption with every step you take. The trainer also features Inov-8’s Rope-Etc technology which helps to align the medial and later sides of the midfoot again for more stability and sure-footedness. The upper features breathable mesh for foot ventilation while the stretchable fabric is stretchy and can accommodate different foot sizes. If you like the minimalist look, then you will really appreciate these Inov-8’s. Find more great products like this by checking out our guide to the best stability running shoe.
Excellent trainer for speed and weight training
Lightweight and natural fit with wide toe box
Feature Meta-Flex technology for natural flexing
Adapter cradle lacing system
- Weight1 pounds
Stiff toe cap
A technically proficient running shoe, the Brooks Men’s Pure Cadence 6 picks up where the Cadence 5 left off and is a zero drop running shoe designed to help you connect to your run like never before. Don’t think that means for one minute though that you have to sacrifice any stability or support as that’s not the case with this Brooks athletic shoe. It’s lightweight and responsive and is made from stretch mesh and a synthetic upper for nearly seamless construction. What that means is that it’s also super comfortable to wear. The fact that the shoe has a traditional lace-up closure system adds to that feeling of security while you still have that liberating feeling from a small 4mm foam cushioning. This is a responsive shoe that performs well even on harder running surfaces.
It has an excellent support system on board which helps to balance foot pronation and the shoe nicely shapes and contours to the foot for a stable ride. With lightweight guide rails, your body is eased into a natural running rhythm and motion while midsole cushioning adapts to every stride to offer impact support. A sturdy and durable rubber outsole ensures reliable grip and traction across a multitude of surfaces and flex grooves improve your overall running movement. It’s an excellent performing zero drop shoe with a stylish design. Don’t forget to also check our guide to the best crossfit shoes.
Secure lace-up closure system for stability
Lightweight guide rails for natural motion
Rubber outsole delivers plenty of traction and grip
Soft smooth and stretchy seamless fabric is super comfortable
- Weight 2 pounds
Not as durable
Our Best Value zero drop running shoe in today’s comprehensive roundup is the New Balance New’s Zante V4. It’s comfortable, and lightweight has a nice width and is supportive in all the right places too. Overall it’s better suited to short to moderate runs as opposed to long sessions. The shoes overall provide a good amount of support and comfort, and while it’s basic in design, it’s highly practical and functional and gets plenty of accolades from happy customers pleased with its general performance. For runners looking for a shoe that delivers flexibility and comfort, then this is a good, budget-friendly option in a low-top style.
The ride is enhanced by Fresh Foam that delivers smoothness as well as helping to promote a swifter pace. With a HypoSkin construction, it’s snug and secure around the midfoot while the engineered, breathable mesh, allows your foot to breath and your toes to wiggle. If you are looking for a running shoe that works well on the road and offers plenty of traction, then this is an excellent recommendation. The Zante V4 feels almost like a second skin but without affecting the breathability. It’s comfortable and irritation free to wear plus durably constructed too with hard carbon rubber heel area. You may also like to check our guide to the best cross training shoes.
Fresh Foam for comfort and smoothness
Great for road running
Neutral arch support with supportive heel
Hyposkin wrap enhances breathability
- BrandNew Balance
- Weight 2 pounds
Plastic shell makes shoe a little stiff
We’re taking a look at a shoe from Topo Athletic next which is their Halsa athletic model. It’s not strictly a running shoe as it’s more versatile than that and designed for strength and weight training too. As such, like the New Balance Zante V4, it’s loved by the weight lifting fraternity. Fearing a 0 mm toe to heel platform it delivers plenty of security and stability especially through the midfoot and is perfect for enhancing those dynamic gym workouts. The upper of Topo Athletic Halsa Men’s Running Shoes is constructed from 2-layers of abrasion resistant mesh so that it’s simultaneously both breathable and comfortable as well as being durable and flexible too.
There’s a roomy toe box which allows the wearer’s feet to comfortably and naturally spend and because it provides an entirely neutral drop which not only delivers the most natural running experience possible but also helps you to achieve better form during those weight training sessions. Our guide to the best water shoes for men offers more great shoes.
- BrandTopo Athletic
Lightweight 0 mm drop platform
Secure midfoot strap system
2 layer abrasion resistant mesh
Anatomical toe box
Overly wide fitting
Our final product recommendation today is our Premium Pick, and it comes from Xero Shoes in the shape of their minimalist Pio Zero Drop Sneaker. It delivers a genuinely minimalist barefoot running feel with the Prio allowing you to bend, move and flex your feet just as nature intended. With a wide toe box, they deliver a natural fit and feel and because they are so lightweight, you barely feel like you are wearing them at all. That said, there’s no compromising on comfort as the Prio uses 5.5 mm FeelTrue rubber so that you get excellent protection while maintaining ground feedback.
For your further comfort, they come with an optional 2mm insole and the shoes are designed to be worn either with or without socks. They also feature reflective straps so that you can wear them out running at night or in dimly light conditions. The straps are adjustable, and overall the design is eye-catching but very functional too. When it comes to barefoot style comfort, these Xero shoes really do take some beating.
Lightweight performance and comfort
Barefoot-inspired FeelTrue rubber sole
Wide toe box with zero drop design
FeelTrue sole believes traction and protection
- BrandXero Shoes
Runs small to size
Zero Drop Running Shoe Buying Guide & FAQ
How We Chose Our Selection Of Zero Drop Running Shoes
Brand - When it comes to footwear, where comfort and performance reign supreme, your best bet is to stick will well known and reputable brands within the category. In particular, that’s true when it comes to zero drop shoes which are a relatively new subcategory. Lots of research and development has gone into the technical aspect of these shoes, so we’ve included plenty of the industry’s leading brands in our review today.
Reviews - Customer experience is critical and a really good indicator in determining whether the product is going to be suitable for you or not. We carefully examine both positive and negative reviews to add that to our own research and user experience to pull together out comprehensive product reviews.
Price - We prefer for our reviews to feature a range of price points that will appeal to everyone. From our premium picks to our value choices and everything in between, our selection features a variety of prices to suit everyone's budget.
Features To Look For In Zero Drop Running Shoes
There are plenty of features to look out for in a Zero Drop Running Shoe as with any technically based or performance enhancing shoe, but some will be more important to you than others. We’ve listed out the key criteria below that we recommend you consider and evaluate their importance to you before you go ahead and invest in your new low drop running shoes.
Toe Box - Look out for a wide toe box which will provide your foot but especially your toes with plenty of wriggle room. By allowing your toes to splay while running naturally, you can get into a much more conformable and natural rhythm.
Zero Drop - Not all shoes will be totally zero drop from heel to toe. Some might be low profile. If you want to truly experience that natural barefoot running sensation then go for something that is 0 mm.
Comfort - If your running shoe doesn’t feel comfortable to wear it’s going to be a non-starter. There are plenty of options available that while still having that zero drop outer sole do feature an element of internal cushioning which you might find more comfortable overall.
Stability - It’s essential that the shoes you purchase feel stable and supportive and are neither to narrow nor too broad. Running in zero drop shoes is a very different experience to running in your regular athletic trainers, so it really is vital that you try on the shoes first before you commit to purchasing them to ensure that they deliver a stable and secure feeling fit for your foot.
Grip - It’s a common trait of a zero drop running shoe that it’s going to have a thinner style outsole and less cushioning that you are perhaps used to, however, the thicker the sole and the more responsive and stable the grip, the more your knees will be protected. Depending upon what kind of surfaces you prefer to do your running on will determine the level of grip and the amount of cushioning that you require. For softer trails, you can afford to go for something thinner, but really it’s down to you and how stable and smooth you prefer your ride to be.
Size - It’s also a good idea generally when you are purchasing a new pair of shoes to try them on wherever possible. So many brands and styles have slightly variable sizing charts, and so it’s crucial to get the right size for you which may be different in a low drop shoe to what you might normally wear in your trail running shoe.
Fit - If you are already used to running in low drop or zero drop shoes, then you will be accustomed to the fit and feel but for anyone new to this design, going from a 12mm heel to toe drop to a 0mm one is inevitably going to take a little bit of adjustment. In that case, it's recommended that you ease your activity and the duration of your sessions wearing your zero drop sneakers in gently. When it comes to accommodating issues such as high arches or overpronation, unfortunately, zero drop running shoes offer limited options so getting a pair that fit overall and feel comfortable is going to be your main priority. As your body adapts to this new and more natural feeling when running and the various muscles begin to strengthen and change in form, you will start to really benefit from and enjoy the sensation of wearing your new zero drop sneakers.
Zero Drop Running Shoe FAQ
Q: What is a zero drop running shoe?
A: A Zero drop running shoe basically allows the foot to sit level with the ground from the hell to the heel to the forefoot without having the usual sloped or triangular shaped wedge more commonly found in athletic shoes. The idea with zero drop running shoes is that you can run more efficiently and effectively, (not that that isn’t possible with a regular running shoe that features a raised heel). However, by featuring a heel and toe that are the same distance off the ground, the premise is that the shoe better mimics how your foot naturally moves anyway when it’s in barefoot mode.
Some brands have created a bit more of a halfway house with a lower ramp angle while there are some very notable big brands out there who’ve fully adopted this technology namely Vibram, Merrell, Saucony, Newton, and Teraa Plana. Zero drop shows are intended to mimic and emulate the style of barefoot running in a safer and more practical way. When you think about it for a second, it makes complete sense! Our feet don’t have elevated heels so really, why should our shoes? Yes, we know. Try telling that to all the ladies out there who love a 4-inch stiletto heel. While they’re certainly not for everyone, they definitely have plenty of benefits.
Q: Are zero drop shoes good for running?
A: The short answer is yes, but they do take a little bit of getting used to as you’d expect. Medical and sports experts recommend that you take your time to transition to this style of running with a lower ramp or no angles, especially if you’ve been a regular runner for years. That’s because anatomically, your muscles and body will naturally have developed to that style and adjusted themselves accordingly so unless you’ve been purposefully working on your form and strength. Initially, you are going to find that your calf muscles will ache more as will your feet.
Overall though, there are tremendous benefits for both men and women from running and working out wearing Zero Drop shoes. They help to put your foot into a natural partner of alignment when you are running and can provide a liberating and natural feel when you’re running with can be very empowering. It’s like tapping into your ancestry and emulating how early man would have run!
By moving pressure away from the knees and spreading the load more evenly bringing in your calf muscles to act as natural shock absorbers, Zero Drop shoes can help prevent the risk of injury as well as minimize lower back pain.
Q: Do zero drop shoes help plantar fasciitis?
In case you’re not familiar with plantar fasciitis, it’s the connective tissue that goes between the heel of your foot and your toes and as such is the primary supportive structure for the actual arch of your foot and therefore under constant pressure and stress. That’s actually why it’s there, to take the strain, however, if it becomes torn or ripped, it can create stabbing pain and a burning sensation and is one of the most common sources of heel pain.
Whether you spend hours on your feet, are overweight or have overdone it with the running, plantar fasciitis can occur, but the great news is that it can be helped and even prevented in the first place by wearing appropriate footwear.
A: Unfortunately, the jury is very much out on whether Zero Drop shoes can help plantar fasciitis and there are two very opposing schools of thought on the subject and not enough conclusive evidence either way. On the one hand, placing your foot in a shoe with a wide toe box, Zero Drop style, with a flexible sole can help to naturally strengthen the feet which will help. On the other hand, the best way to deal with the complaint is to support the arch, cushion the sole and heel and invest in orthotics. One thing we do know is that prevention is better than cure any day of the week, and if you regularly only wear minimalist style shoes, your toes will automatically have more wriggle room and your feet and calves be naturally stronger. Getting back in touch with your original sense of motion, the one you were born with, can help and that, of course, is very much achievable with a Zero Drop shoe so make your own decisions and always seek out expert medical advice.
- What’s The Deal With Zero-Drop Shoes - Runner's World
- Shoe Selection For Plantar Fasciitis - Running Physio