Transitioning to zero drops

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    Mark L
    BPL Member


    I have some spring trips planned so I figured I’d built out a very mild fall training schedule. I read some intriguing things about the foot (e.g. Irene Sprague Davis, “Let’s Think About What We Put on Our Feet“).

    I figured since I was starting a mild and careful training regime (1 mile a day, 6x a week, build up to 2 a day, after several weeks, start with empty pack, etc.) I would try something new and bought Altra Lone Peak 6’s.

    The first couple of weeks they felt fine. I figured since I go barefoot around my house all time time the transition would be easy. I then switched to the Wide version. I’m not completely sure why, but it seemed logical. I have a fairly wide foot.

    I’ve been using them on easy local trails about 8 weeks now. At around the 3 week mark I began having odd hip pains, and some odd knee pains. I had occasional metatarsal pain but that has been mild and brief.

    My previous shoe of many years was the La Sportiva Wildcat, with a Green Superfeet insole. I’ve worn Superfeet for many, many years (which I somehow now regret). I’m using the stock Altra insole in my Lone Peaks.

    I’m battling my mind telling me, “you never had any issues with your Wildcats and Superfeet, why on earth would you switch?”

    I’m wondering what to do. It seems like it’s too early to switch back. I really love the change (besides the discomfort). I love feeling the trail, careful foot placement, splayed out toes. In fact I almost want to take the shoe off entirely and go barefoot down the trail, but I won’t. I don’t want stubbed toes or risk stepping on something.

    Has anyone else made the switch and experienced what I’m experiencing, and did it take you several months before all this passed? I’m a 56 year old fit male, lots of walking on my feet, but during this time I’ve slowed way down and moved into a hiker’s gait. As part of my plan, I hoist a very light pack at this time (~4 pounds) about 2-3 times a week. I was taking 1 day off a week, now I’m taking 2 off a week.

    I’m almost kicking myself for trying this little experiment. I do hope that it will pay dividends further down the road. I really do feel like there is far less stress on my knees and hips. I wish the aches would go away so I knew I was on the right path.

    Putting any of my previous shoes back on now feels wildly inappropriate, like I’m tipped forward unnaturally. But I keep thinking of the long miles I used to do without issue. I’m a bit stuck in my mind.

    Just as an fyi, my base pack weight is under 12 pounds, and my 3 season backpacking is done in the Appalachians – NC/VA. I also saw a PT for awhile, and she gave me a series of great hip & shoulder exercises. I know it’s early, but they haven’t seemed to make any difference.

    Thanks for reading and any insights.







    Iago Vazquez
    BPL Member


    Locale: Boston & Galicia, Spain

    I also have wide feet and walk around the house barefoot. I switched to zero drop about 7 years ago, mostly Altra. I didn’t experience the transition issues folks describe online. I started little by little, but I was backpacking in them in 3 months with confidence.  All was great till about two years ago. I started to have weird pain in various places. I don’t quite recall where. But it was a problem. I noticed that when I put on shoes with a small drop, the issues disappeared. So, over about 8 or 9 months, I stared going on and off, enough times to confirm the drop was the problem. Nowadays, I am mostly on Hoka and Salomon wide sizes, although I must say, the overall fit for me was better in my Altras. Although what I miss the most was my Bedrock sandals. I lived three blissful summers in them till issues started.

    Shoes are extremely personal. And perhaps I should have seen a doctor to rule out possible injuries. But switching back did the trick so I never went to a doctor.

    Perhaps not a bad idea for you.

    Michael Gillenwater
    BPL Member


    Locale: Seattle area

    You are using new muscles and ligaments that you are not used to. It will take much time to condition. But it is worth it to make the long transition in terms of foot and leg health.

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    I’ve read articles about people that tried zero drop shoes, had pain, so they switched back to “regular” shoes and the pain went away.

    Outside online maybe

    BPL Member


    I have been in zero drop shoes for about 15 years.  I started by switching all my daily wear and work shoes to zero drop.  Vivobarefoot were my work shoes and Altra were my casual.  I never noticed any transition issues.  Now when I put on any shoe with a heel rise I can feel it immediately.  It doesn’t hurt but it feels like I am pitched forward walking.  Even as little as a 5mm rise.

    Steve Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northeast

    Don’t underestimate the switch from superfeet to stock inserts.  You might possibly be pronating more which can place side to side strain on your knees that your hips are trying to counter.  Would definitely try stabilizing your arch before abandoning the altra’s.

    Kevin S.
    BPL Member


    I did a gradual switch – neighborhood walks > quick trail hikes > 5 miles > confident in whatever.  I needed some arch support (over pronation especially on reconstructed ankle leg) – I tried superfeet greens – but ended up needing a little less and also, although I loved the altras – I thought a little more of a thin rock plate near especially toward the heel side would be better.  I added some SF trailblazers and my feet have not meet happier – right amount of arch support, with added hard mid to heel.  My only concern was that they were slightly wider (near the arch of the shoe – can feel slightly pushing out when tied, but I have not noticed any extra wear there )- so it may be more in my head.  But this combo is making my feet happier than any shoe I have worn.   I now keep two altra LP with SF trailblazers in them – one for the trail, and one for the gym.

    Diane “Piper” Soini
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Barbara

    It could also be in your excitement to try new shoes you are doing more walking and hiking than usual. That you would even consider 1 mile walks as a training regimen kind of makes me think that you’re starting from a pretty low level of fitness. Also, as a person who is overweight, I notice that the more I weigh the more my feet hurt walking around and the more it hurts my feet to wear a pack. So if you’re also overweight your shoes could be allowing you to feel it more. Altra Lone Peaks feel sort of like moccasins than like structured footwear.

    Bob .
    BPL Member


    Locale: Vancouver Island

    The Altra Lone Peak has a 25mm stack height.  That’s an inch!  From the Irene Davis video and podcast I’ve listened to (and your linked video), she is recommending minimal cushioning so you can feel the ground. I have Xero boots, shoes, and sandals that I’m trying to transition to (eg Mesa Trail).  I have Achilles tendon problems so I’m doubtful I’ll ever be able to backpack in them but at least I hope to use them for day hikes and everyday use.

    For more from Irene Davis, this is a good interview/podcast with Peter Attia from 2 years ago.  Also available on ITunes.


    Mark L
    BPL Member


    Hi everyone- thank you for your remarks, I appreciate them all.

    Diane, when I said I started with 1 mile, this is because of the switch to zero drop. I saw a lot of warnings about a slow transition. I’m currently at 3 & 5 mile hikes, 4-5 times a week, doing traditional macro & micro cycles; a periodization program I built based upon ultra road cycling events I used to do years ago.

    I was previously doing 5 & 6 mile hikes several times a week, partial runs, hill sprints  & repeats with my La Sportiva Wildcats and green Superfeet. I now have learned my Wildcats are a substantial 15mm drop.

    So I went from 15mm drop shoes with Superfeet to Lone Peaks with standard inserts. I’m going to take Steve’s suggestion & try including the Superfeet again for awhile. If I continue to have issues I’ll give a 4mm drop shoe a try, such as the Peregrines or Speedgoats. In hindsight, I probably ought to have switched first to a 4mm shoe with Superfeet, and gradually worked down. No question I was a heavy heel striker with the Wildcats. I’ve learned a much different gait and midfoot stride with LPs.

    I think I made a kind of idealized leap into the unknown, believing that conditioning would allow it. And perhaps it will, given enough patience and time. I have both in abundance, but I’m not sure how slow, how little, and how much time would be required to transition. I would think that 8 weeks would be sufficient, but I have no idea.

    There is much to chat about in all this. It’s difficult to think about.

    Some recommend seeing an expert.

    Many years back I saw a local expert, a highly recommended sports podiatrist. He told me, “those aren’t the highest arches I’ve ever seen, but close to it.” He told me, “we’re long past the point of being able to go barefoot like our ancestors. I want you wearing shoes full time, from the time you get out of bed. I also want you wearing the custom orthotics I’ll make for you. And come back every so often for new ones.” So I paid $$$ for them and dutifully complied with the “shoes full time” command. For awhile, until I just couldn’t do it anymore. I’ve gone barefoot or minimal sandals indoors most of my life without problems.

    I stopped wearing the orthotics and backpacked in New Balance and then La Sportiva just fine, as long as I got my trail legs first.

    The only reason I saw him was because without sufficient conditioning I tossed 35 pounds on my back & went out and hiked the steep Art Loeb trail. I got an overuse injury, and instead of realizing it, and simply resting, I was programmed to seek out experts and fix things with a credit card.

    I’m sure if I saw him today he might be less quick to pull out the orthotics solution. I don’t know. I think there is a change happening in the medical field.

    I know that we have to be our own advocate. It’s a journey.

    I confess that part of me resists the idea that we have to keep trying shoe after shoe until we stumble upon the right one (the other part of me is willing to do that). Do we do that because each of us has unique issues which have come from wearing shoes all our lives? And if so, can we start to undo those given enough time and conditioning? Or is it a vain, idealistic pursuit after a given age? No doubt there is a huge difference between a 26 year old foot and a 56 year old foot with many more miles on it, and shaped and conditioned by the shoes it wore for so long. And so maybe age ought to be considered in all this.

    Thanks everyone – for your encouragement and insights. I will try resuming with green Superfeet in the Lone Peaks for awhile, and perhaps try the Carbon Superfeet. Then after so many days, if issues remain, I’ll try going to a 4mm Peregrine or Speedgoat (with or without Superfeet). I also have Inov-8 Terraultra G 270 I haven’t tried yet.


    Fredrick B
    BPL Member


    Mark,  I feel your hardship. My experience is similar to that of Iago’s. Started on the Altras, have since moved to Hokas and their 4mm(?) drop and it seems like the blended solution I’ve sought. I will tell you when I put on my  old Wildcats just to bang around it does feel like I’m on a pair of skis at the top of a really steep slope. I agree there’s probably some wisdom in using shoes with similar drops when you’re not hiking if you can, if you can collect enough without going broke in your quest for the perfect, friendly footwear.

    W I S N E R !
    BPL Member


    If you used to do long miles without issue and zero drops are now causing issues…I don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish by sticking with zero drop.

    I live my life at home barefoot and have done so for all of my life. I have also worn Vans for the majority of my life (skateboarding for 20+ years), also zero drop.

    At some point I transitioned into zero drop and minimal footwear for hiking (this used to not really be an option in trail running shoes).

    Zero drop footwear solved some serious issues I was having, namely IT band problems from distance running (marathons and 50Ks).

    All was going well for years. I went through many pairs of minimalist NB shoes (MT100s, MT101s), as well as many iterations of the Altra Lone Peak.

    Fast forward to today:

    I still live primarily barefoot at home, I still wear Vans and flat shoes day to day. But I have developed Haglund’s Deformity in both heels (basically a bone spur theorized to be created by tight Achilles), as well as insertional Achilles tendinitis.

    Wearing higher drop (10mm) hiking shoes is the only thing that now makes long distance tolerable; zero drop simply places too much strain on the Achilles/heels. I also avoid dorsiflexion in weightlifting, doing squats and deadlifts with an elevated heel. There’s a good chance I will eventually need surgery. Would these issues have happened regardless? Who knows. But the fact that higher drop shoes alleviate most of my symptoms, or at least make them manageable, tells me that zero drop distance running and hiking was causing problems in some way.

    Long story short: Zero drop is not some magic cure-all for all people. It had it’s advantages for me…temporarily…and then likely contributed to other long term issues.

    All of which is basically a long-winded way of saying: if it’s not broke, why fix it?


    Phong D
    BPL Member


    It might be some other property of the shoe that is causing issues.  I have Altra Lone Peaks (latest), Hoka Stinson (previous model), and Topo Ultraventure (latest).  The Altra’s are the most flexible.  Although they have a lot of stack, they do not cushion impact like the others.  They are very flat soled (no rocker) so do not “assist” in your gate.  These are why people like them as they are closer to a normal gate.  I can’t say which is better.  I think for fit people (like yourself) the Altra’s are better.  For unfit chubby folks (like myself) I prefer the others.  Anyway, it could be one of these factors as well, not just the zero drop.

    Mark L
    BPL Member


    I put wide green Superfeet in my LP’s and just went 4 miles up & down some steep hills and felt really good overall, much better than lately. It’s early but I’ll report back after more time & miles.

    I read that high arches can cause supination. Other things can, too. I checked past shoes and saw they have clear signs of supination:

    Whether that is from my arches, gait or something else, I don’t know. Those shoes always had green Superfeet in them.

    It was asked why I switched. The emotional answer is “because I’m an idiot.”

    But frankly I didn’t really appreciate what I was getting into. I weight train (squats, RDLs, etc.) barefoot, I’m barefoot working around the house as much as possible. I do short walks outside barefoot. So I figured it would be an easy change.

    I don’t regret it. There have been benefits. I walk considerably more upright. I feel much better with a pack on my back having a much better posture. I have scoliosis and kyphosis, which alter my posture. So assistance with standing upright is welcome.

    Before, I had a rather dramatic overstride, which past PT’s pointed out to me but I had a hard time correcting. I loved speeding down a trail. Now I wear a watch and try to keep it at 2.5mph as a maximum.

    Now I have a much shorter stride and less of a heel strike. I am more mindful of the ground in front of me. I’m more nimble, picking my steps through roots and rocks. Previously I somewhat steam rolled my way over a trail, more oblivious to foot placement.

    Whether these changes remain with me if I move to a 4mm shoe such as a Peregrin or Speedgoat or something similar remains to be seen.

    But for now I’ll continue with the green Superfeet and report back perhaps after 100 miles.

    I want to express gratitude to everyone for your feedback.

    Kind regards,





    Kimberly Wersal
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Colorado

    I’m guessing that the high arches ARE causing the supination type wear. My shoes look worn just about like yours and I have very high arches, too. It’s caused the early demise of a lot of pairs of shoes. But I don’t think it’s necessary unhealthy, since I have never had foot or knee problems, even with 64 years of wear and tear.

    George W
    BPL Member


    I have wide feet and high arches, but no real foot issue’s related to that.

    I tried several different brand’s and styles of shoes, any I could get my hands on actually, I returned so many that REI may have been questioning having me as a customer.

    Wide Hokas were too narrow, Altra LP 5 wides were about the best, I use the wide Superfeet inserts in them. I fine tune them with inserts cut from other insoles that go just under my heel, so the drop can be anything I want it to be.

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