Today’s sneakers are shedding the padding and allowing your feet to work the way they were designed to. Athletes like basketball legend Wilt Chamberlin (who wore zero-drop Chuck Taylors) discovered the low-drop secret early on: Your feet need feedback. Better ground contact activates more muscle fibers, increases foot flexion and torsion, and reins in your form. But to find the drop best suited to your training, you need to cut through the fluff.
The term drop refers to the difference in height between the heel and the forefoot. The 12mm drop on most kicks encourages a heel strike rather than a mid-foot strike, which in turn increases impact on your knees. Low-drop shoes (7mm and below), by contrast, create more dynamic movement with less, resulting in a more natural stride. We’ve rounded up the best zero- and low-drop options out there so you can start gaining a lot more with a little less.
Transitioning to low-drop shoes should be gradual, and static stretching after training is key. To stretch your soleus and Achilles tendon (and reduce the risk of tight plantar fascia), use the “Burrito Roll” stretch: Stagger feet about two feet from a wall: place a rolled towel under your leading big toe. Press hands against wall and hold for three minutes each foot, five days a week. Jay Dicharry, M.P.T., director of biomechanics at Rebound Physical Therapy, says to allow 10–12 weeks for results.