The best running shoes with 12 mm heel drop

by Solereview editors
Published: Last Updated on

The Brooks Ghost 15 on road.

This article has been updated with current models for May 2024. The Brooks Ghost 15 has been replaced with its updated version.

The Brooks Ghost 15 in a park.

The heel drop – which is the difference between the forefoot and heel thickness of a midsole – can be one of the deciding factors for a running shoe buyer.

The consensus is that running shoes with an 8-10 mm drop occupy the ‘sweet spot’ of heel-to-toe offsets.

It’s fair to say that psychology, not a hard number, dictates running shoe choices. The same psychology also draws a line with 12 mm drop running shoes. Most people view a 12 mm offset as the mental cut-off; anything higher is a difficult sell.

Today, while a 12 mm drop is considered on the higher side, there’s some history behind it. Let’s explore some of those reasons, and why a lot of them still matter today.

A 12 mm heel-to-toe drop makes running easier for beginners

A higher heel-to-toe drop reduces stress on the Achilles Tendon. This makes it easier for new runners to get comfortable while minimizing the risk of soreness.

Therefore, a 12 mm drop is a good starting point for new runners and less stressful for runners who are recovering from injuries.

Rearfoot landing is still the preferred way of foot-striking

Despite full-contact or midfoot landing’s rise in popularity, a rearfoot landing continues to be the preferred foot-strike pattern. Don’t take our word for it; there is plenty of epidemiological data to support it.

A thicker heel with a beveled design and cushioned midsole makes the rearfoot landings smooth and comfortable.

Solereview recommends: Brooks Ghost 16

In this guide, the Brooks Ghost 16 is our top pick. The Ghost is one of Brooks’s most popular running shoes, and it’s easy to see why.

The single-density DNA Loft 3 (a Nitrogen-injected foam) provides ample cushioning that’s versatile enough to be used as a daily trainer or long-distance cruiser. And this is where the Ghost 16 differs the most from the Ghost 15.

Whereas the previous model used an EVA foam blend, the 2024 Ghost uses the same midsole material that’s on the Glycerin 21.

Brooks claims the cushioning is ‘super soft’, but that’s not true. Like all the Ghost models that came before it, the Ghost 16 has a cushioned yet firm ride. That’s not a bad thing, as it creates a stable and consistent platform.

The soft upper is packed with comfort-oriented features like a smooth lining and padded heel. There are also three other optional widths, a wide choice of colors, and sizing that extends to a US 15.

2) Daily trainer with a 12 mm drop: Mizuno Wave Rider 27

A stiff PEBAX plate sandwiched within the foam midsole gives most Mizuno shoes – including the Rider 27 – its signature ride quality and stable ride.

The Wave Rider 27 still has the wavy plate but is a much softer shoe. The ‘Wave’ plate is also smaller than what it used to be 4-5 years ago.

As a result, the plate makes the Rider 27 stable and transition-friendly, but the soft cushioning no longer needs a break-in period.

The engineered knit upper and spacer mesh tongue makes the fit comfortable yet secure. There’s an inner gusset as well.

3) Max-stability trainer with a 12 mm drop: Brooks Addiction GTS 15

Even though the Addiction GTS 15 is very different than the Addiction 14, it’s still a 12-mm heel drop trainer.

We’d classify the Addiction GTS as a walking shoe rather than a running shoe. The 12.2-ounce/346-gram weight makes it difficult for the Addiction to be taken seriously as a running shoe.

In return for its 12-ounce bulk, the Addiction GTS 15 offers an ultra-supportive midsole with a generous amount of cushioning. The GTS 15 has one important feature that the Addiction 14 did not have – the midsole has ‘Guiderails’ on its side for increased under-arch support.

The engineered mesh upper is soft, spacious, breathable, and sells in three additional sizing widths.

So how are the Addiction GTS 15 and Beast GTS 23 different? The Addiction uses a different midsole foam, has more outsole rubber coverage, and is slightly heavier. In short, it offers a marginally higher level of stability than the Beast.

4) Mild-stability trainer with a 12 mm drop: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23

The Adrenaline GTS 23 is the stability version of the Ghost 16; its DNA Loft midsole has a nearly identical ride, but with one important difference. The midsole has raised sidewalls called ‘Guiderails’ that cup the foot on either side.

The inner Guiderail of the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22.

The ‘Guiderails’ of the Brooks Adrenaline.

Do the Guiderails work? As in, influence the gait during runs? We highly doubt it. That said, it does offer a cushioned and stable ride with a heightened sense of under-arch support.

Just like the Ghost, the GTS 23’s upper is accommodating yet secure. It won’t be a stretch to call it plush due to the use of spongy spacer mesh and foam-quilted heel.

If you’re upgrading from the GTS 22, you won’t notice a whole lot of difference.

5) Mild-stability trainer with a 12 mm drop: Mizuno Wave Inspire 20

The Mizuno Inspire 20 is the ‘support’ variant of the Wave Rider 27. But take that analogy with a grain of salt, as both shoes are fairly similar.

Both the Rider and Inspire have a soft midsole with a stiff Wave plate under the heel.

The only difference is that the Inspire 20’s plate is reinforced on the inner side for added stiffness. The Inspire’s upper is reinforced with fused overlays and heavier mesh.

Everything else feels similar to the Rider 27, so the cushioning has a familiar feel. The Inspire 20 is a stable running shoe that’s good for everyday miles and slightly quicker (5 min/km, 8 min/mile) paces.

6) Max-stability trainer with a 12 mm drop: Brooks Beast GTS 23

From what we’ve seen (and experienced), the ‘Guiderails’ on Brooks running shoes oversell their usefulness. That also holds for any other ‘stability’ shoe with raised midsole walls; they have very little effect on limiting pronation.

Of greater importance is the overall midsole stability, and that’s an area where Brooks excels – be it the Ghost 16, Glycerin 21, or Beast GTS 23.

The Brooks Beast GTS 23 weighs 11.9 ounces (337 grams), so it’s not your everyday trainer. The ultra-wide midsole offers a much higher level of support over lighter trainers.

Brooks’s DNA Loft 3 midsole foam is inherently very stable and resistant to bottoming out. The Beast is like a wider Glycerin with raised midsole walls and more outsole rubber. While the Beast is a decent shoe for slow-paced runs and walks, its versatility is limited.

The plush and secure upper is a good match for the cushioned midsole. It keeps the foot supported inside the shoe in comfort, and there’re optional widths available (wide and extra-wide) as well.

7) Affordable trainer with a 12 mm drop: Brooks Trace 2

This $100 running shoe is a diet version of the Brooks Ghost. Given the Brooks Trace 2’s entry-level pricing, the upper is built to a cost.

That said, the Trace V2 has all the necessary bits – like a breathable engineered mesh upper, padded heel, and a 6+1 row lacing setup. There’s even an optional width – something that the Trace V1 lacked.

The midsole uses a lower-tier foam tech called BioMogo DNA – an EVA foam blend that used to be the cushioning workhorse on the older versions of the Brooks Ghost.

At 8.6 ounces/244 grams, the Trace is fairly lightweight. This gives the midsole a surprisingly high level of versatility; use the Trace as a daily trainer or even a tempo trainer.

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