February 22

Is Heel Drop a Benefit or a Disadvantage when Choosing Shoes?

This topic comes up often in the treatment of foot conditions.  Shoe selection is important whether looking for support, realignment, cushion, or stability.  A person needs to consider his/her foot type and the needs that their foot type calls for when selecting footwear for various activities. (I have another blog on the topic of Finding the Right Shoes for Your Foot Type on this website). In this section, I will focus on the benefits and disadvantages of choosing heel drops for shoes.

What Is a Heel Drop in Shoes?

A low heel drop in shoes means the heel part of the shoe is at the same level or less than 8 mm as the ball part of the shoe.  The opposite is true when there is a high heel lift in the rear foot of the shoes when one compares it to the front part of the shoes.  Most shoes manufactured today have a high heel drop.  Consider this when you buy your next pair of shoes.

Heel Drop and Its Function

In my experience, a higher heel lift promotes an early heel strike and relieves the stress on the rear foot and the Achilles tendon.  This automatically pushes the foot toward the front for a quicker push-off in the gait cycle.  Thus, the higher heel drop places more pressure on the front part of the foot, but it promotes a faster pace in the running.  On the contrary, the low heel drop places the rear foot and the forefoot in an even plane.  As the foot heel strikes, the foot will absorb the shock evenly at the rear and midfoot.  As it rolls toward the front, the forefoot pushes off on an equal energy level as the heel.  Thus, the lower heel-drop shoes are known to have a lower impact stride.

The Benefits and Disadvantages of Different Heel Drop Shoes

High-heeled-drop shoes can place a lot of pressure on the forefoot.  This can be problematic in conditions like sesamoiditis, plantar-flexed metatarsals, and ulceration in the forefoot.  All of these foot conditions are hard to treat because of their location; there is too much pressure on these areas to heal.  However, if a person suffers from Achilles tendonitis, high-heel drop shoes relieve stress on the tendon as they contract the tendon course and relieve pain.

In low-heeled drop shoes, there is an advantage where the stress is distributed evenly throughout the whole foot.  They can strengthen the intrinsic musculature over time by placing the feet in a more natural stride/position in gait.  The disadvantage to the low-heel drop shoes is that they challenge the Achilles tendon to be tauter.  For this reason, it forces a person to stretch more and not be injured during exerted activities.

What to Buy for Shoes?  Still Confused?

On a separate but related topic, minimal shoes are not low-heel drop shoes. I am not a proponent of minimal shoes. They do not provide enough support or address the needs of different foot types.

Ask yourself if your feet need more cushion, stability, or support.  Couple that thought within what terrain will you wear your shoes, e.g., the road, hills, gym, or around town?  Are you an athlete or a weekend player?  Do you have any pathology in the forefoot or rear foot?  If you have concerns in certain areas, choose the right shoe, as I have discussed.  If you need more assistance, please contact us at 410-833-2255.

(Here is another reference on this same topic. https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/running-shoes.html#heel-drop

Dr. Dang H. Vu, DPM is a Baltimore Podiatrist with more than 18 years of experience. He completed his residency at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, where he furthered his surgical expertise. He now holds privileges at Northwest Hospital. He offers services from three Baltimore Locations in Reisterstown, Towson and Hampden. You can find directions and request an appointment on his website FamilyPodiatryofMD.com.


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