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Could Your Heel Drop be Holding You Back?

Overlooked shoe design, cycling cadence, and being a "poor" triathlete

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Good morning everyone,

I have to admit, I was absolutely glued to my TV for Sunday night’s incredible Super Bowl matchup between the Chiefs and the 49ers. Between the nail-biting overtime, the commercials, a shirtless Usher (with friends), and of course, Taylor Swift’s reaction to pretty much every play, it was all-time viewing.

And even though the big game is extremely over-the-top in a lot of ways, it’s nice to feel like you’re watching something with everyone. In today’s fragmented media environment, these kinds of moments are becoming increasingly scarce.

Thankfully, if you’re a fan of professional triathlon there will be plenty of opportunities to see the best athletes battle it out this year. The races I’m incredibly fired up for include:

  • The revamped T100 Tour and its 🔥 roster of incredible athletes.

  • The Kona and Nice Ironman World Championships.

  • A (rumored) revamp of the Super League Triathlon Championship Series

  • And, in my opinion, the biggest race(s) of the year -The Olympics

Plenty of historic action to look forward to!

In today’s edition: 

  • 👠 Why your heel drop could be holding you back

  • 💸 How to manage being a “poor” triathlete

  • 🎡 And, should you switch up your cycling cadence?

Thanks for being here,

-Matt Sharpe, newsletter editor

Headshot of Matt Sharpe

Have a triathlete in your life who can't stop swimming, biking, or running? Fire this off to them. Forwarded from a friend? Sign-up for free. 


Why Your Heel Drop Could Be Holding You Back


Not all running shoes are created equal, nor are they designed the same. One aspect of shoe design that we sometimes overlook is the heel drop.

  • “Heel drop” refers to the difference in height between the heel and toe of the shoe - measured in millimeters.

  • Heel drop can be confused with stack height which is the distance of your shoe’s material between your foot and the ground.

Measuring heel drop

Degrees of drop

Traditional drop shoe - Anywhere from 6 - 10mm.

Mid-drop - This can be around 1 - 5mm between the heel and toe.

Zero drop - Exactly that! There is no heel-to-toe offset.

Drop considerations: The magnitude of the heel drop can potentially affect the way you run, and where the impact forces are distributed.

Zero drop

In a zero-drop shoe, you are more likely to land in a midfoot to forefoot position. This will distribute more impact forces into your calves and less in your hips and knees.

  • A zero drop shoe will put your foot in a more natural position and will rely on increased muscle activation to fix weaknesses rather than relying on the shoe.

  • It has been noted that athletes with knee pain can see improvements when switching to a mid/zero drop shoe from a traditional drop.

  • However, this can lead to a greater propensity for injuries in your lower legs like calves, achilles tendon, and foot bones.

Traditional drop

A traditional drop shoe typically sees athletes land with more of a heel strike. This redistributes landing forces away from the lower leg, and towards the knees and hips.

  • Many of the new “Super Shoes” athletes are using to break incredible records have more of a traditional heel drop.

Tempo’s take

Having the right heel drop isn’t necessarily make or break for reducing your chances of getting injured, as it has been shown that no single type of heel drop is better than another for overall injury risk. 

But, it’s clear that if you’re running in a lower drop shoe (0 - 4mm) and you’re getting consistent lower leg issues in your calves or feet, you might want to switch to a higher drop shoe.

  • And, conversely, if you’re dealing with knee or hip pain in your higher drop shoe (8mm+), it might be time to try a lower drop shoe to see if the pain is alleviated.

The surface you run on might also play a role in what kind of shoe drop you need:

Technical trail? A lower drop will allow the foot muscles to provide stability. A higher drop shoe might see you more likely to roll an ankle 😖

A long run or a race? Having a higher drop shoe could help distribute the running stride force production to stronger muscles like your glutes and quads. Over a longer period, the smaller muscles in your calves and feet may fatigue quite quickly.

Anecdata: For many years I was an athlete who was constantly injured and could never have a fully healthy season run-wise. I dealt with every kind of ‘itis and various bone stress injuries.

  • I’ve now been overuse-injury-free for almost eight years (touch wood!). One of the key reasons was switching to a higher drop shoe to take the pressure off my calves and feet!

What factors do you use to decide a running shoe?

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💸 Poor triathlete: Chances are if you’re doing a sport like triathlon you’re probably not “poor.” But often, looking at the bikes and gear in transition, it can kind of feel that way! This Reddit thread is a refreshing view on a sport that can sometimes feel like the spend is out of control. [Reddit]

🎡 Cycling cadence: For some reason 90RPM is typically the answer when someone asks ‘what cadence should I cycle at?’ But is that enough? Do you need to change your cycling cadence higher or lower? It depends on your goals. [GTN]

🏕️ Camp life: Pro triathlete Justin Metzler has been putting in some serious training ahead of his first Ironman of the year, and his most recent video gives high-level insight on how he’s preparing to win. Plus, you get a cameo of a certain newsletter editor wrestling with his dog!

💡 Training transformation: Cam Mcevoy went from quitting his sport (swimming) to breaking a long-time national record - and being a favorite for gold at this summer’s Olympics. How? Revolutionizing his training from 70km training weeks to 3km! Not fully triathlon-related, but maybe an inspiration for those looking to shake up their training routine. [ABC]


Packing your triathlon gear is the 4th discipline!


Xterra World Cup: The revamped 2024 Xterra World Cup will see the best offroad triathletes battle it out over a seven race series across the globe. [TriZone]

India endurance: India’s longest triathlon will see over 300 athletes swim 5km, bike 200km, and run 50km. [Times of India]

Incredible athlete: Joseph Maroon is an 83-year-old practicing neurosurgeon and triathlete. But at 40 he could “barely climb a flight of stairs.” He says key health principles have helped him become a much much healthier individual. [business insider]

Presidential visit: The President of World Triathlon, Marisol Casado, will visit Cuba as a part of the 2024 Havana Triathlon. [Prensa Latina]


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