Heel-Toe Drop or Offset: What Does it Mean in a Running Shoe?

by Roberts Wayne on October 6, 2011

The recent explosion of interest in minimalist running shoes has brought along with it an interest in specific shoe design features that probably rarely crossed the mind of most runners just a year ago (before the publication of Born to Run by Christopher McDougall got people thinking about these kind of things). One of these is the concept of heel-to-toe drop, sometimes also referred to as heel-toe offset, heel-toe differential, or heel-toe lift (you sometimes also see “forefoot” substituted for “toe”). So what exactly is heel-toe drop, and why are people interested in it as a shoe design element?

Anatomy of a running shoe from New Balance

Heel-Toe drop/offset/differential as defined by Brooks Running is “the difference between (midsole + outsole) heel height and (midsole + outsole) forefoot height” (see picture above from New Balance if you’re not clear what the midsole and outsole are). Thus, a drop of zero would mean that when seated in the shoe, the heel and ball of the forefoot would be at exactly the same height off of the ground. A drop of 12mm would mean that the heel sits 12mm higher off the ground than the forefoot. The importance of the HT drop value is that it’s thought that the lower it is, the easier it will be to land on your midfoot or forefoot while running. I’m not sure if there have been published studies confirming this, but my personal experience running in shoes of varying HT drop values, as well as a few of my informal laboratory attempts to correlate heel height in shoes with footstrike, seem to suggest that this relationship is likely real. You can check out these posts for more:

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