Coming soon to lips of runners everywhere will be two words: zero drop. It describes the differential between heel and toe. It's also the ideal meme for what's taking place in the running world-- yes, barefoot is best, but not all runners can go from maximalist to barefoot overnight. Even the minimalist middle passage takes adequate time, as underutilized tendons and ligaments finally become free at last, free at last. There are plenty of so-called gateway shoes with varying degree of heel lift-- Mizuno Wave Universe 3 and INOV-8 Talon 212, to name just two popular brands. Still, the Vibram Five Fingers is the current no-heel holy grail for the almost-barefoot bunch-- so long as you don't mind looking like AquaMan. Now a virtually unknown new shoe company seeking early 2011 spring liftoff is trying to usurp the VFF as runners' BFF. The company is called Altra, and it promises a Zero Drop running shoe.
Here's what its website claims: "Nearly all running shoes (including many so called minimalist & racing shoes) have a 2 to 1 heel to toe differential (24mm heel and 12mm forefoot is most typical). Zero Drop is simply a 1:1 ratio—meaning that the heel & forefoot are the same distance off the ground (there is no ‘drop’ from heel to toe). Altra believes that if your heel needed to be elevated off the ground above your toes, you would’ve been born this way! Zero Drop takes the concept of a natural approach to running and eliminates the heel elevation in footwear. Over the past 18 months (and for many even longer than that) there has been a revolution of taking running shoes to the garage or the local cobbler and cutting out the heel elevation in the shoe in order to achieve better running technique, posture, & a more natural running experience. The founders of Altra threw the term ‘Zero Drop’ out in to the internet back in 2009 as a way to quickly identify shoes with no heel elevation."
Let's hope the term-- ZD for short-- sticks around. It should.