Running in a pair of zero drop shoes doesn’t mean you’re running all but barefoot down a hot pavement road on race day. It doesn’t even make you a minimalist runner. Going for a run in a zero drop shoe simply means your shoes are flat or level from the back to the front and your foot is parallel to the ground when standing still.
Running shoes have typically been built with more cushioning under the heel than the forefoot. The height difference between the shoe’s raised heel and lower toe is measured in millimeters (mm) and called the ‘drop’. This measurement can very from 0mm to 15mm depending on the shoe but as the barefoot, minimalist and natural running movements have gained momentum, shoes with massive drops are starting to disappear.
Why? Many recent scientific reports have found that running miles and miles with our heels dramatically higher than our toes can lead to big time injuries by creating additional heel strike forces, heavier landings and excessive foot movement. Ever tried running in high heels? Putting the foot in an unnatural position for the task you’re asking it to do is begging for trouble. Running and biomechanical expert Jay DiCharry believes that running in a flatter shoe is ideal because it lets the body stay in a natural position without having to compensate for how the shoe might try to make the foot move.
Switching to zero drop shoes can decrease the landing forces on your hips, knees and ankles and worked in with stretching can make you less susceptible to injury. Sounds great, right? Be careful. Transitioning to a pair of zero drop shoes isn’t as easy as picking them up at the store. If you’re currently in a shoe with a big drop, start making the change to a flatter shoe by decreasing your drop by only a few millimeters. Trade your 12mm drop shoes for an 8mm pair and give your body time to adjust to a possibly new movement pattern and different stride rate.
The transition period should be 6-8 weeks and build by only a few miles each one. Decrease the drop in your shoes with each pair you buy until you hit zero, giving yourself plenty of miles to acclimate every time. With thousands to choose from, it’s easy to find the lower or zero drop shoes that will make your body happy.
Racing shoes can come in many forms. With lots of options, finding the right pair of racers might not be hard, but do you really need them? Read on the learn the differences between racing shoes and normal training shoes and the potential benefits and risks of racing in a lighter shoe than you train in.
Let’s start with the basics. Training shoes are heavier, thicker and more supportive than racing flats or lightweight training shoes. Normal training shoes typically come in weighing anywhere from 8-10 ounces per shoe while lightweight training shoes range from 5-7 ounces per shoe and racing flat can be as light as 3-4 ounces. The reason those other types of shoes weigh less than your regular trainers is because they have less cushioning and less support. That being said, these are some of the pros and cons of sporting a barely there pair on race day.
- A lighter shoe is that your muscles don’t have to work quite so hard to pick up each foot. Studies have shown that each ounce you remove from the weight of your shoe can increase your speed by one second per mile. Take off three ounces, that’s three seconds per mile and almost ten seconds off your 5k time.
- Lighter racing shoes can also make you feel faster. They’re special for race day. Just like your lucky underwear or breakfast, your shiny race shoes might not only weigh less but make you feel lighter, faster and more positive.
Unfortunately for some runners, lighter shoes won’t have much of an impact and can actually cause problems. Here are some potential problems to keep in mind before you trot off to the running store for a new pair of racing shoes.
- The limited cushioning in racing flats or lightweight trainers mean they don’t provide a lot of buffer between your foot and the ground you’re running on. This lack of support, motion control and stability can be problematic for those who need them.
- Light racing shoes might not be for you if you’re worried about an injury, tired, sore or are one of those who need lots of support and cushioning.
- Consider what you’re wearing them for. A 5-, 8- or 10k isn’t very long and doesn’t give you lots of time to get hurt. For a 10 miler, half or full marathon, your regular trainer, lightweight trainers and performance trainers are probably a better answer.
If you do decide to give lightweight trainers or racing flats a try, be sure to run in them before you race and talk to your coach about your decision. You wouldn’t wear brand new shorts on race day and it’s not a good time to experiment with new footwear, either. Racing shoes can be a big change from your regular runners and your body will need time to learn how to adjust.
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