Best Zero Drop Running Shoes Reviewed & Tested for Performance

Back in the days of yore, people would go about their business without any shoes at all. They would grab their spears and track their dinner for miles through the snow, barefoot and uphill both ways. Then somebody got the bright idea to invent shoes, and everything started to go wrong for our feet. Shoes, particularly modern shoes, don’t often take your foot’s natural anatomy or movement into account. In particular, heels can cause a variety of problems for your feet, legs, and back. Thus, in an attempt to go back to the halcyon days of yesteryear, zero drop running shoes have become more prevalent in the running community.

Last Updated: December 1, 2017
By Tenby Lloyd:

This 2017 update gives a solid explaination as to what zero drop running shoes are, before breaking in to a top ten list of what is now on the market. By going over the benefits that are specific to this unique type of shoe, it is made clear why a runner may be more interested in purchasing these over other types. The update brings together a mix of different brands to give a complete overview of what to look for this year. 

Featured Recommendations

Altra Torin 2.0
  • Altra Torin 2.0
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Platform Sole
  • Footshape Toe Box
  • Price: See Here
Altra Low Peak 3
  • Altra Low Peak 3
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • TrailClaw Tread
  • Multi-Layer Platform
  • Price: See Here
Marrell Vapor Glove 2
  • Marrell Vapor Glove 2
  • 4.3 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Breathable Mesh
  • Vibram Outsole
  • Price: See Here

For the uninitiated, zero drop shoes are shoes that have no height difference between the heel and the rest of the foot. This is said to be better for your feet for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is it allows your feet to strike the pavement in a more natural fashion while you’re running.

Although some of the purported benefits of zero drop shoes are debatable, there is no arguing that shoes with heel drops can cause problems for runners. Buying yourself a pair of zero drop shoes can save yourself a lot of literal pain in the future.

 

10 Best Zero Drop Running Shoes

 

1. Altra Torin 2.0

A stylish shoe for the runner who wants all the benefits of a zero drop shoe, but also enjoys running with a thicker sole. This shoe has a fully cushioned footbed that contours to your feet as you run as well as a thin quick-dry mesh body to keep your feet cool during those summer runs. The large toe box will give your feet enough room for the toes to splay in a more natural fashion, allowing for a more comfortable run.
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Platform Sole This sole is made of a dual-layer EVA. In addition to the 5mm cushioned footbed, the sole has been designed with both Inner Flex and Foot Pod technologies, allowing for a more flexible grip on even the toughest terrain.

Footshape Toe Box The wide toe box allows for your toes to splay in a more natural fashion while you run. Giving your toes more room to breathe will help your balance and speed while running.

Cost and Value
These shoes tend to be on the cheaper side for specialty shoes. They are definitely a bargain if you want to have a zero drop shoe that has a lot of cushioning in the soles.
Pros
  • Cushioned footbed
  • Flexible soles
  • Quick-Dry Mesh
  • Large Toebox
Cons
  • Heel is a little wide

2. Altra Superior 2

A trail running shoe for those more inclined to go on long runs through the forest. The TrailClaw outsole will keep your feet from slipping on a wet trail while the FootShape toe box Altra is known for will allow for a more stable and comfortable run. The shoe includes a removable stoneguard insole, to protect your feet from stray pebbles that may try to work their way inside your tread while you run. The upper body is made from a quick-dry mesh that will keep your shoes from weighing you down in the rain.
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Removable Stoneguard Insole Nothing is worse for your running rhythm than having to stop every few feet to fish rocks out from the tread of your shoe. Altra has your back. They have included a Stoneguard insole with the Superior 2 that will keep those pesky pebbles on the trail where they belong.

Rubber Trailclaw Outsole The rubber outsole was designed with traction in mind. No more slipping on wet muddy trails. This special tread will ensure your climbs are faster while your descents are more stable and less harrowing.

Cost and Value
These shoes can be a little expensive for a hobbyist, but if you are a serious runner who spends most of their time running the trails this shoe is more than worth the price tag.
Pros
  • Flexible Sole
  • Trailclaw Outsole For Better Traction
  • Wide Toe Box
  • Removable Stoneguard Insole
  • Quick-Dry Mesh Body
Cons
  • Run a little small
  • Relatively Short Shelf Life

3. Vibram Bikila EVO

A minimalist running shoe designed with medium distance runners in mind. This thin-soled toe shoe is so thin and flexible you’ll feel as comfortable as you would going barefoot. The MegaGrip soles allow for better traction and protection on rougher terrains. The antimicrobial sock liner will keep these running shoes from smelling like they’re your running shoes.
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Deconstructed Sole The lightweight soles and separated toes will curl and flex along with your feet, allowing for a more natural and comfortable run without forgoing the protection of wearing shoes.

Vibram MegaGrip Pods The strategically placed rubber pods on the outsole will allow for a stronger grip on the track. They are light enough to provide all the benefit of a heavier duty tread without adding on all of those extra ounces.

Cost and Value
These shoes are relatively inexpensive. If you’re looking to make the transition over to a minimalist shoe, it could be worth looking into buying a pair of Vibrams.
Pros
  • Lightweight Flexible Sole
  • MegaGrip Pods
  • Antimicrobial sock liner
  • Mesh body
  • Individual toes
Cons
  • Can only be worn with toe socks
  • Reported to have a short lifespan

4. Altra Olympus 1.5

4. Altra Olympus 1.5
If you’re looking for a zero drop shoe that will keep you relatively sheltered from the hazards of running on a trail, these are the trail running shoes for you. These shoes boast a one inch platform with a cushioned footbed for maximum comfort and protection. As is typical of Altra, the toe box is extra large and gives your toes all the room they need to spread out while you run.
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Layered Midsole
The extra thick sole allows Altra to pack in as many goodies as they can into the soles of their shoe. The A-bound cushioning helps absorb the shock of your stride while also returning the energy for a smoother run. Below that, the EVA foam helps shield your feet from the harsher ground of the trail.

Lace Up Vamp
The laces stretch all the way down to the vamp, allowing for a more supportive fit that can be more easily adjusted to your foot shape.

Cost and Value
These shoes do run on the more expensive side. Given the comfort and protection they offer, the price tag is more than reasonable for a serious trail runner.
Pros
  • EVA foam and A-bound cushioned sole
  • Lace-up Vamp
  • Trail specific outsole
  • One Inch Platform
Cons
  • A little wide in the heel

5. Merrell Pace Glove 3

5. Merrell Pace Glove 3
The Pace Glove is a trail running shoe with a breathable mesh lining and a padded collar for maximum comfort during those runs on difficult terrain. This shoe’s main claim to fame is its special tread. 3mm deep lugs and TrailProtect pads allow for a safer and more comfortable run on even the rockiest of trails.
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Omni-Fit Lacing System
The Pace Glove has specially designed laces allow for a more secure and comfortable fit. No more worrying about your shoes slipping off at an inopportune moment.

Trail Specific Tread
The tread has been designed specifically for trail running. The lugs measure 3mm deep, allowing for better traction on both wet and dry ground. There are no lugs on the arches, allowing the sole enough flexibility to flex with your feet.

Cost and Value
These shoes run the gamut from very inexpensive for a specialty shoe to quite pricey, depending on your shoe size. If you have smaller feet and are looking for a quality shoe for trail running, these might be too good of a bargain to pass up.
Pros
  • Deep lugs for better traction
  • Flexible arch for more natural running
  • Breathable mesh lining
  • Omni-Fit Lacing System
  • Padded Collar
Cons
  • Run Narrow

6. Altra Intuition 1.5

6. Altra Intuition 1.5
The Altra Intuition 1.5 takes all the best parts of the original Altra Intuition and improves them. The toe box is spacious and comfortable, allowing for better balance while you run. The wide platform is designed to promote a more natural footstrike. The thick protective dual-layer sole will keep your feet save and comfortable making this shoe an excellent choice for someone who is looking for a more cushioned zero drop shoe.
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FootPod Outsole Altra’s 4.5mm FootPod Outsole is the perfect choice for running without fear of losing your footing. This specially designed tread will keep your feet from slipping on a wet trail after a long run.

Anatomical Footbox This extra large foot box gives your toes room to wiggle and breathe on your run. With more room for your toes to spread, you can ensure a better grip and balance while running.

Cost and Value
These shoes can be pretty pricey. If you’re looking for a solid shoe that will carry you through a long run, you won’t regret paying a little more on these shoes.
Pros
  • Anatomical Toe Box
  • Thick Platform
  • Dual-layer EVA midsole
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Run a little small

7. Vibram Spiridon MR

7. Vibram Spiridon MR
A minimalist shoe that is perfect for everything from mudruns to your daily errands. Vibram has found the perfect balance between a nearly barefoot feel with a tough protective sole that will keep rocks and debris from throwing off your stride. Vibram’s FiveFinger design allows for your toes to flex and splay naturally as you run.
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3D Cocoon You’ll feel as good as barefoot with this lightweight Rockblock nylon mesh midsole protects your feet from the elements while remaining thin enough that you can feel the ground beneath your feet.

MegaGrip Sole The multidirectional wavegrip outsole permits stronger traction even on the slipperiest of surfaces. Even steep muddy trails should be no problem with these shoes on your feet.

Cost and Value
The pricetag is nothing to sneeze at, but given the quality of the product it is a reasonable price. If your wallet can take the hit, your feet will thank you for spending the extra money on these quality shoes.
Pros
  • 3D Cocoon Rockguard Midsole
  • Wavegrip Outsole
  • Bungee lacing
  • Fivefinger separated toe techonolgy
Cons
  • There is a seam on the big toe

9. Merrell Bare Access Arc 3

9. Merrell Bare Access Arc 3
These shoes are perfect for people looking for an extra-cushioned zero drop shoe. 8mm of cushioning in the footbed, along with extra cushioning in the heels and toes ensures a comfortable run. These shoe was treated with odor protection, and these shoes are machine washable. They are easy to keep looking and smelling as fresh as the day you bought them.
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Cushioned Footbed
These are excellent shoes for your first pair of zero drop running shoes. 8mm of cushion will carry your feet through your longest runs. The extra cushioning in the heel and the toe ensures comfort as you get used to the feel of a zero drop shoe.

Odor Control Lining
No matter how sweaty or muddy your shoes get, they odor-control fabric will keep the worst of the stench at bay. The shoe is machine washable for easy cleaning.

Cost and Value
These shoes aren’t terribly expensive for a high-end running shoe. If you’re looking for your first zero drop shoe, these will give you the most bang for your buck.
Pros
  • Extra cushioned heel and toe
  • 8mm cushioned footbed
  • Odor-control fabric
  • Machine washable
Cons

Can be uncomfortable for those with high arches

8. Altra Low Peak 3

8. Altra Low Peak 3
A rugged running shoe for a rugged trail. No mountain path is too much for the special TrailClaw outsole. The midsole is lined with a special stone guard material while the footbed is 5mm of cushion. With the extra wide toe box that Altra is known for, you’ll have a steady and enjoyable run no matter where your feet take you.
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TrailClaw Tread
The outsole is fitted with specially designed uphill lugs will ensure your footing is steady no matter what sort of terrain you find yourself running on.

Multi-Layer Platform
The fully cushioned footbed rests atop dual-layer EVA and A-Cushioned midsole will keep a spring in your step while you blaze a trail. The stone guard technology ensures comfort even on the rockiest trail.

Cost and Value
These shoes are very affordable for specialty running shoes. Picking these up would be a smart investment if you often find yourself running on trails.
Pros
  • 5mm cushioned footbed
  • Roomy toe box
  • TrailClaw tread
  • Dual-layer EVA and A-Cushioned midsole
  • Stone Guard Technology
Cons
  • Run small

10. Merrell Vapor Glove 2

10. Merrell Vapor Glove 2
A low profile shoe for those who don’t like running in shoes with bulky soles. The extra-flexible outsole was designed with a multi directional lug pattern and made of vibram to ensure more secure traction as you run. The mixture of mesh and polyurethane vamp keeps your feet cool and laces up to ensure a more secure fit.
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Breathable Mesh Vamp
The lightweight mesh and polyurethane mix of the vamp conforms to your feet as you run. It's comfortable enough to make you forget you're even wearing shoes.

Sticky Vibram Outsole
The specially designed outsole combines a multi directional lug pattern with the natural stickiness of vibram for better traction while keeping a low profile. These shoes are excellent for keeping your feet under you wherever you run.

Cost and Value
The Merrell Vapor Glove 2 is an excellent running shoe with a comparatively small price tag. Between the excellent quality and the low price tag, these shoes are an amazing bargain.
Pros
  • Breathable mesh vamp
  • Conforms to your feet
  • Vibram grip tread
  • Flexible Sole
Cons
  • Shoes run narrow

As runners, the health of our feet and legs is our primary concern. Running on sore feet or with an aching back isn’t just uncomfortable, the strain could lead to permanent damage. We need to take care of ourselves, and that means buying the proper equipment. Zero drop running shoes have a lot of benefits, not the least of which is easing the burden on your knees, hips, and back as you run.

While some of the shoes on this list can be a little pricey, it is my opinion that you can’t afford to skip at least trying out a zero drop running shoe. It will take some time for your body to adjust to the new shoes, but the potential benefits are well worth it. The money you spend on more expensive shoes can help curb the medical costs you might face down the line if you use a running shoe that is not right for you.