What are zero drop running shoes, and what differentiates them from standard running shoes?
Zero-drop running shoes are minimal "barefoot" running shoes that have minimal to no cushioning and leave the feet laying directly flat on a level surface of the shoe.
What are the benefits of wearing zero drop running shoes?
The benefits of wearing zero drop running shoes are controversial and can vary from person to person. The most commonly advocated benefit is that barefoot or zero drop shoes encourage less dependency on shoe gear and more reliance on strong muscles of the feet and legs, which in theory will help improve body posture, stride, and performance overall. It's important to be aware that the benefits of zero drop shoes are only available to people that already have proper running form to begin with. Differences in anatomy, posture, and individual biomechanics can actually increase the risk of injury when transitioning to wearing zero drop running shoes.
Are there certain people who can benefit the most from wearing zero drop running shoes?
Clearly there are people who are die hard fans of zero drop running shoes and for some individuals, these shoes may feel comfortable and help improve performance if underlying foot deformities and/or pain are not present. As mentioned above the benefits of zero drop shoes are only available to people that already have proper running form to begin with. Currently there are no studies that have proven that zero drop shoes improve performance or reduce the risk of injury.
Are there any drawbacks to wearing zero drop running shoes?
Walking with little to no support as with zero drop shoes on hard surfaces allows our foot to collapse which can lead to a tremendous amount of stress not only to the foot but to the rest of the body. Our feet naturally pronate during the gait cycle, however when we walk with no to no support we pronate for a longer period of time which then alters the biomechanics and distribution of pressure and weight across the foot. This imbalance may increase the progression of underlying foot deformities such as bunions and hammertoes and lead to painful conditions associated with excessive pronation such as arch/ heel pain, shin splints/ posterior tibial tendonitis, and Achilles tendonitis. This imbalance can then translate upward affecting other parts of the body such as our knees and back.
Advocates of minimalist shoes believe that because these shoes help shorten a runner’s stride, they place less stress on joints. I strongly disagree with this notion. I believe that runners are actually at an increased risk of injuring themselves due to the lack of protection offered by minimalist shoes. According to a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, runners who were training for a 10k race with minimalist shoe gear had two to three times the amount of injuries compared to runners in traditional supportive shoe gear. I frequently treat patients coming into my office suffering from injuries after wearing minimalist shoes. A few examples include stepping on a foreign object, spraining an ankle, or developing a stress fracture. Furthermore, runners with poor foot structures such as flat feet, are at an increased risk of developing musculoskeletal injuries when using minimalist shoes. Although not everyone with flat feet suffers from foot pain, people with flat feet overpronate, which means their arch collapses for abnormally long periods of time during the gait cycle. Pronation helps you absorb shock and adjust to uneven terrain. However overpronation can lead to injury or other foot problems including plantar fasciitis, bunions, tendinitis, stress fractures, calf pain, and shin splints because of the lack of support these shoes offer.
The reason why minimalist shoes are so popular is because some of the greatest runners in the world have been running for years with little to no support. What people have to understand in some parts of the world some individuals have been running with minimal to no shoe gear since they were children. Years of running with minimalist shoe gear may have increased musculature and osseous callus formation in their feet, which may enable some individuals to withstand the impact of barefoot running with less risk of injury. This is not the case for most people.
At Gotham Footcare in NYC, we strive at recognizing your individual needs and desired outcomes while formulating an effective and personalized treatment plan with the highest quality care available.
What sets Gotham Footcare apart from other podiatry offices is our dedication to providing you with the education you need to make well-informed decisions regarding your care. Regardless of what your foot and ankle trouble may be, at Gotham Footcare our team will work tirelessly to help you feel better. At Gotham Footcare, we help you put your best foot forward.