My Foray into the World of Zero-Drop. Ouch.

Note: This was written almost a year ago! I’m happy to report, I’ve fully and successfully transitioned to running ultra-marathon distances in zero drops! 

After being cooped up in the house with germy kids these last few days and with only fantasy football to amuse me, I was going batty.  I figured it would be good to sneak out for a quick run today in my new running shoes!

Perfect Fall Day in NoVA!
Perfect Fall Day in NoVA!
It’s been 2 weeks since my last marathon and I’ve been a lazy sod (sorry, Catholic school girl confession script).  It did feel great to get out there at first…but what was supposed to be about a 7 mile negative split session ended up being a 4 mile run/walk.  What happened?!?  How the heck did I run 26.2 miles just 2 weeks ago and today I’m struggling to complete 4 measly miles???  ( was the shoes…read on)


I can admit that I tend to make things harder for myself.  Why can’t I just be satisfied with what’s working?  I’ve always been a seeker of truth and that requires inquisitiveness.  I have a frequent penchant to probe deeper, to ask “But, why?”.  I’m not satisfied until I feel like I’ve dug as deep as I could.  This annoys the hell out of my husband when we have our marital spats.  Ha! Anyhow…

As a dancer, a trainer, and now, a runner, proper form and technique are of UTMOST fascination and importance to me.  So as I was exploring the plethora of articles and discussion threads regarding proper running form, I came across zero-drop shoes by Altra Running.  The concept is to keep the foot in a natural position as it would be if we were to run barefoot as that would activate our body’s natural best form, minimizing injury-producing impact on our joints, and just making us “better” runners.  The argument is that we are built to run and we can run long distances safely if we can practice good form.  Not an easy feat, (ha) but definitely a noble pursuit and I’m ALL about noble pursuits!

Barefoot Jake Brown
Barefoot Jake Brown
You may ask, why not just run barefoot?  Well, unless you’re THAT kinda crazy, like my friend Jake Brown here, you’re probably not thinking about running barefoot for long distances.  But hey you might be inspired!  You can read all about Jake’s adventures here: ‘Notes From the Road‘. I can certainly lean towards the airy-fairy crunchy granola type (I practiced natural hygiene with my 3rd child…read: NO DIAPERS!) but running barefoot on roads does not appeal to me in the least.  Honestly, I think I’m most concerned about getting doodoo and all kinds of gunk on the bottom of my feet.  Theoretically speaking, I’m all for it if you’re badass enough!

So, I definitely need running shoes, and I’ve tried a variety, from Brooks to Mizunos and Nikes to Skechers.  Many running shoes have anywhere from a 4mm to 12mm drop…meaning your heel will sit that much higher than where the front or ball of your foot sits in your shoe.  (I’m not a shoe expert so forgive my layperson language…you’d probably understand that better anyhow, unless,salsa-dance-shoes- of course, you are a shoe expert.  LOL) I love a light, minimal feel.  I do love dancing barefoot, but alas, as a salsa dancer, I danced for years in a 101.6mm drop!  Hahaha…that’s a 4 inch heel.  How ridiculous…and it really messed me up!  Anterior pelvic tilt, overdeveloped calves and quads, tight hamstrings and glutes that learned NOT to fire. To run well and without injury, your butt must be involved…you want them to fire!

My noble pursuit of learning to run in zero-drop shoes began early this summer.  I bought myself a pair of Altra Paradigms and failed miserably to transition.  Not the shoe, but my fault.  I took them out on a 10 mile run to start.  I know.  Also, I did not like the max cushioning in the shoe, so I ended up returning them and returning to my 4mm Skechers GoRun 3, which have served me really well.  (side note re: Skechers, I seriously had my doubts about the Skechers but my hubs was such a huge fan, I decided to try them out.  And well, yeah, I got a little sucked in by the Meb marketing. I ended up training in them for about 6 months and ran a half and full marathon in them!)

I was a bit disappointed because I really wanted to teach my body how to run with a zero-drop.  But with the marathon looming closer, I just stuck with what was working.  

Me and Coach Jeff at MCM Expo
Me and Coach Jeff at MCM Expo
Zero Drop, Take 2!  At the Marine Corps Marathon Expo, I finally got to meet my cyber run coach, Jeff Prs, who was helping out at the Altra booth.   And guess what, I scored a pair of the One Squared!  I’d been obsessing over them online because of the light cushioning and overall design so I couldn’t wait to try on a pair.  As I slipped them on, I immediately thought, “These are the ONE!”  I was so thrilled, you’d think I was putting on Cinderella’s Glass Slipper!

My Altra One Squared in Light Blue...look at that generous toe box!
My Altra One Squared in Light Blue…look at that generous toe box!
Even though I’ve been running in a 4mm drop shoe, the change in feel of the zero drop is quite substantial!  I definitely experienced some discomfort earlier on from muscles working a little differently.  But I’m going to be patient this time and transition like I’ve been advised to do…gradually.  Dammit, I WILL be a zero-drop runner someday!

btw…I just got yelled at by Coach that I’m stubborn and that I was only supposed to run for 10 minutes in the new shoes.  Oops!

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