You’re looking for a new pair of shoes and you’ve seen this reference about heel to toe drop. And you're trying to figure out what the heck is that? Well, I'm Jesse Funk and on today's episode of Runner's High, I'm gonna explain exactly what that is, and how it affects your run performance.
I've mentioned this in other episodes, but if you haven't seen those, I actually spent three years of my life working full-time, that's 40 hours a week, fitting shoes for people both runners and people with medical conditions. So, I've seen a large gamut of people looking for nicer shoes, high performance, we'll call them tennis shoes, running shoes, ?? 00:48> I'm in the Midwest, they call them tennis shoes.
So, this was actually also during the time where barefoot running was a huge craze, kicked off by our beloved book, Born to Run. Everyone seemed to be talking about, I want a flat shoe, I want a flat shoe. I don't want a big chunky shoe. I want a flat shoe. I was something up to minimal. Well, yes, the heel to toe drop is what makes a shoe flat. But the people that came in and said I want a flat shoe didn't necessarily understand what that meant entirely, or the implications of having a flat shoe going straight from a traditional shoe to that will the heel the toe drop is what actually makes a “shoe flat” quote-unquote.
Now, a heel to toe drop is, we look at the shoe here, it's a difference in the amount of padding in heel versus the toe. Hence, heel to toe drop. What is the drop, what is the difference between the two? So, for instance, I don't know about this particular shoe but just go with my math. Say there's 18 millimeters of padding here in the heel, and there's only 10 millimeters of padding in the toe. That means that the shoe has an eight-millimeter drop.
Most meaningful vectors will actually list the stats on their site for any given shoe that you're looking at. So, they'll say, heel stack height, that's how it’s often referred to, stack height. The heel stack height is this, the toe stack height is this, and then you have to do some very basic math to figure out what the differential is, what that heel to toe drop actually is.
The implication here is that the higher the number is, the higher up your heel is posted. Meaning that when you run it is more likely than not that you're going to heel strike. So, often, people who want a more natural gait and are looking for something like that, what you can check out, one of my other videos, subscribe to the channel, check that out here in a second. But if you're looking for a more natural gait, often people say, hey, I want a lower heel to toe drop. I do it myself. I've transitioned away from more traditional shoes, which is a 12-millimeter drop down to a four-millimeter drop.
The problem here is that there can be issues in the transition going from 12 millimeters and having lots of cushion underneath your foot to a minimal shoe that's zero millimeter drop. Meaning stack heights are the exact same on toe and heel. And there's no padding or very minimal padding, which was the case at that time when I was working in the running store. There are a lot of shoes now that have better padding, and also have that minimal drop.
So, the problem here is that when you go from a traditional height down to something that has essentially nothing in it, there's a couple problems that present themselves. The first is that your Achilles now has a longer way to go, it's got to stretch more. So, Achilles problems crop up very often for people that are doing a lot of work. Meaning running a lot of miles or putting a lot of pounding on their feet to make this transition.
The other issue is at the padding, not necessarily the heel, the toe drop, in that if you go from a very padded shoe to a not padded at all shoe. It's a very big transition. Your feet, the musculature in your feet have not built up to deal with those forces that you incur when you're running without the padding.
Now, that isn't to say that all is lost and you have to go with a low heel to toe drop shoe to get natural running form. As my coach will tell you and you can listen to his own words, Episode One of the Smart Athlete Podcast, when asked about, is there a perfect running form? He says no. And it's not even a problem that you necessarily heel strike. But you need to make sure that it's underneath your body, not out in front of you. It can be easier to not heel strike when you're wearing a lower heel to toe drop kind of shoe, but it isn't absolutely necessary.
If you want to make the transition from that traditional shoe, again that's around 12 millimeters some will have up to 14 millimeters. Go to your local running store, rely on those guys and gals, they will help guide you through a series of shoes. And my conservative estimate, it takes six to 12 months of running through shoes depends on your mileage to go from a traditional shoe down to a more minimal shoe with lowering the risk of injury.
So, if you have any comments for me, any questions, leave them down below in the comments. I'd love to make a video just for you. I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.