Lower heel-toe drop shoes came to prominence during the minimalist movement. The idea being a more level shoe platform places the foot in a better position for running… “Better” with regards to efficiency (less energy), or less prone to injury. While neither purported benefit is yet supported by substantial scientific evidence, there are many runners who find success with lower drop shoes.
Traditional running shoes (since the 1990s) have had a drop of 10-12mm. During the minimalist movement, 4mm became a popular drop. Additionally, shoe stack heights of minimalist shoes were very low. Minimalist shoes had forefoot heights of 9-12mm or less, compared to traditional heights of 20-22mm. Many runners found the thin height not protective enough. Then Saucony found the sweet spot for some with the Kinvara. The Kinvara had a 4mm drop and an 18mm forefoot height. It provided a cushioned feel somewhat similar to a traditional shoe but with a low-drop platform. Following suit, Brooks introduced the PureFlow, and Nike has its Free 3.0.
Today there is a great variety of drops and stack heights available. Drops of 6mm or less are considered low and forefoot stack heights of 18mm or less are also considered low. For some, the 18mm forefoot height is too low. On the flip side, it’s possible to get a low-drop shoe with a high stack height (24mm and above). HOKA ONE ONE dominates this space. Some find this is too high and too cushioned. If you are like Goldilocks and a traditional forefoot stack height is just right and you want a low drop, you now have several options.
Within this range you have the shoe that made the category mainstream, the Saucony Zealot. There is also the ultra light, zero-drop Altra One. Most Newton shoes are in this range, and there is even the very supportive New Balance Vongo. So if you have been wanting a low-drop option, while maintaining traditional cushioning, there is a broad range of choices.
Note: A lower drop may place more stress on the lower leg (Achilles tendon, calf muscles) than you have been experiencing. If you are changing shoes where the heel-toe drop is more than 3mm lower than what you have been running in, a period of transition is recommended. It is best to limit runs in the lower drop shoes to 10 to 20 minutes for 2-4 weeks. It is always best to start with less and gradually add more.