In this product guide:
- 1. Factors to consider
- 2. Versatile 10 mm drop trainer for daily runs: Nike Pegasus 40
- 3. Supportive 8 mm drop trainer for daily runs: Asics GT-2000 11
- 4. Everyday 8 mm drop trainer with a soft ride: Asics Cumulus 25
- 5. Cushioned tempo trainer with an 8 mm drop: Asics Novablast V3
- 6. Cushioned 10 mm drop trainer for easy runs: Asics Nimbus 25
- 7. Max-cushioned 9 mm drop trainer for easy runs: Nike Invincible 3
- 8. Cushioned 10 mm drop trainer with a medial post: Asics Kayano 29
- 9. Cushioned 8 mm drop trainer with a medial post: New Balance Vongo V5
- 10. Cushioned trail runner with an 8 mm drop: New Balance Hierro V7
- 11. Cushioned trail runner with an 8 mm drop: Nike Wildhorse 8
- 12. Cushioned marathon racer with an 8 mm drop: Saucony Endorphin Speed V3
- 13. Low-profile racer with an 8 mm drop: adidas adios 7
There was this strange period between 2009 to 2016 when runners became obsessed with the ‘drop’ of a shoe.
Also known as the heel-to-toe offset, the ‘drop’ is the difference between the heel and forefoot thickness. For example, if a midsole has an 18 mm thick heel and 10 mm thick forefoot, it would have an 8 mm drop.
Running shoes often go through a cycle of fads. Over 10 years ago, it was the barefoot running boom that popularized the likes of Vibram Five Fingers, Vivo Barefoot, and Nike Free. It also led to the misplaced notion that running shoes with a lower heel-to-toe offset were superior to ‘high drop’ shoes.
Then came the era of maximalist cushioning that led to the growth of Hoka. We’re not out of that phase yet; the max-cushioning has evolved to become the plate-in-a-midsole category that was made popular by the Nike Vaporfly.
Thankfully, the infatuation with heel offsets has waned in recent years, as it should. Many brands have even stopped advertising the heel-to-toe offset number.
Getting fixated on just the ‘offset’ is unhealthy – even if someone is looking for a midfoot strike-friendly shoe.
There’s a lot more involved in what makes a running shoe compatible with forefoot landings. For instance – what does the heel design look like? How wide is the forefoot? Does the upper heel allow the foot to fit flush against the heel? Is there a heel bevel for smooth transitions? Is the outsole a full-contact type?
We wrote a detailed buyer’s guide examining the various factors that make a running shoe suitable for midfoot or full-contact landings.
Based on our experience and reader feedback, a running shoe with an 8 – 10 mm offset is the ideal sweet spot for a variety of reasons:
An 8 mm offset is the perfect middle ground
There’s a reason why most shoe brands produce running shoes with an 8 – 10 mm heel-to-toe offset. Even Saucony, the maker of the 4 mm drop shoe (aka the Kinvara), focuses on running shoes with a higher heel-to-toe offset. For example, the popular Ride 16 and Guide 16 have 8 mm gradients.
On one hand, companies like Altra base their entire catalog on the 0 mm form factor and remain a niche player. Then there are shoes like the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22 with a 12 mm offset. In that context, an 8 mm offset is neither too high nor overly minimal.
(Related read: The best running shoes with a 4 mm drop)
The Achilles tendon is less likely to experience soreness
A lower ‘drop’ also lowers the position of the heel, thus stretching the Achilles tendon. Though the human foot has a zero mm ‘drop’, most people aren’t accustomed to footwear without a heel.
Therefore, transitioning from a 12 mm drop shoe to 0 mm may require an adjustment period. An 8 mm drop running shoe needs little to no acclimatization.
It works for all experience levels
An 8 mm offset is versatile enough to be used across all running shoe classes.
It’s found in daily trainers like the Asics GT-2000 and Saucony Ride, and also in performance speed-training shoes like the adidas adios 7 and Saucony Endorphin Speed 3. Even trail runners like the New Balance Hierro and Nike Wildhorse have 8 mm drops.
New runners can quickly find comfort in this offset range, and so can experienced runners who are shaking off their winter hibernation. With an 8 -10 mm drop midsole, it’s easy to pick up where you left off.
A higher heel is useful in the gym
Not everybody runs on the road. For many runners, the treadmill is where most of their runs take place. That’s also usually preceded – or followed by – strength training.
A higher heel-to-toe offset moves the center of gravity forward. This is helpful during lifts, where a forward bias is desirable. That’s why training shoes that are designed for strength training have a high drop. We reviewed such a shoe (Nike Metcon 7) on this site.
(Related read: The best running shoes for treadmill runs)
Lastly, running shoes with an 8 mm offset are readily available
Even though many running shoes with 0, 4, 5, and 6 mm offsets exist, it’s way easier to find a running shoe with an 8 – 10 mm drop. And again – it’s not just about the drop, so an abundance of choices also makes it likely to find the right combination of upper fit, styling, and midsole cushioning levels.
For ease of navigation, we’ve split this guide into five sub-categories – everyday trainers, soft running shoes, stability shoes, trail runners, and speed shoes.
Daily trainers with an 8 to 10 mm heel offset
1) Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 40 (10 mm heel offset)
Except for minor changes to the upper, the Nike Pegasus 40 is almost identical to the Pegasus 39. For 2023, only the upper has changed; the sole hasn’t. Our review of the Pegasus 40 lays out the extent of updates.
The two Zoom Air bags work together with the React midsole to produce a versatile ride quality. The pressurized Air bags help when you need to dial up speed, whereas the softer React foam core adds comfort for high-mileage training. The Pegasus 40 is as close as it gets to a one running shoe to do it all.
The upper has been improved as well, with a true-to-size fit that’s also secure. The cord-based midfoot lacing changes to a strap-based design; the inner sleeve, and padded heel and tongue keep the foot locked in.
2) Asics Gel GT-2000 11 (8 mm heel offset)
In many ways, the GT-2000 11 is very similar to the last year’s GT-2000 10 – a shoe that we reviewed in detail.
Just like the GT-2000 10, Asics doesn’t advertise the ‘Dynamic Duomax’ on the GT-2000 11, which is Asics’s term for a medial post.
However, there’s still a firmer density foam on the inner midsole. It’s just that it’s not visible from the outside, and its effect on the overall ride is negligible. The soft Flytefoam cushioning makes the GT-2000 11 a comfortable trainer for most use cases.
And like always, the upper is comfortable, secure, and is available in multiple widths. The GT-2000 has a heel-to-toe offset of 8 mm.
Also see: The Saucony Guide 16 (8 mm heel drop) gets you a significantly firmer ride – if that’s what you’re looking for.
3) Asics Gel-Cumulus 25 (8 mm offset)
This 8 mm drop neutral trainer is a popular choice as a do-it-all shoe. Often viewed as the toned-down version of the plusher Nimbus and the ‘neutral’ version of the GT-2000, the Cumulus’s blend of versatile cushioning and comfortable upper has gained a large following of loyalists.
The Flytefoam midsole strikes just the right balance between mileage-friendly comfort and versatility. It’s an excellent everyday running shoe, and doesn’t complain when pushed hard.
The Cumulus 25 gets a brand-new midsole that’s made of Flytefoam Blast+, so the ride character has more pep than the Cumulus 24.
A deeper transition groove gives the Cumulus 25 better stability than the 24. On the flip side, the outsole traction is a letdown because of the reduced rubber coverage under the forefoot.
The knit upper is soft and smooth on the inside – thanks to the one-piece shell exterior and padded heel and tongue. The interior runs very warm, though. The Cumulus 25 also sells in additional widths.
Also see: Saucony Ride 16 (8 mm drop) – a neutral trainer with a firm and stable ride.
4) Asics Novablast 3 (8 mm offset)
The first three shoes are ‘safe’ everyday trainers. If you’re looking for something more fun, may we recommend the Asics Novablast 3?
It’s a cushioned shoe with a bit of pep, thus making it versatile for daily training as well as tempo runs. Our review of the Novablast 3 explains what makes the shoe tick.
The Flytefoam ‘Blast Plus’ midsole blends ride comfort with speed-friendly responsiveness. Throw in a rocker midsole, and you have a shoe that makes it easier to ‘roll’ forward.
The Novablast 3 also works better as a forefoot striker’s shoe, which only proves that its 8 mm drop is of little consequence.
The single-piece mesh upper fits securely, but with a high level of interior smoothness and comfort.
Soft running shoes with an 8 to 10 mm heel offset
1) Asics Gel-Nimbus 25 (8 mm heel-to-toe offset)
For as long as we can remember, the Nimbus has been advertised as the ultimate expression of Asics’s neutral cushioning capabilities. The name – based on a type of cloud – alludes to a soft ride that makes long runs easy on the feet.
The lofty marketing isn’t far from the truth, because that’s what the Nimbus 25 is -thanks to the extensive redesign of Asics’s popular trainer. Our review covered the Nimbus 25 in great depth.
Unlike the Nimbus 24, the 25’s midsole doesn’t have multiple densities of foam, or even a visible Gel unit. The Nimbus 25’s midsole loses 2 mm of heel drop (from 10 mm to 8 mm), but is taller (41.5 mm and 33.5 mm stack) and wider.
The forefoot’s rocker-like behavior wasn’t a part of the Nimbus 24’s ride character.
On the road, the Nimbus continues to be a soft cruiser for everyday runs. However, there’s a marked change in how the cushioning softness is delivered. The extra volume of Flytefoam is noticeable under the foot, and not only is the forefoot more comfortable, but it also does a better job of ‘rolling’ the foot forward.
The knit upper has a plushly-padded heel, but with a knit tongue that’s similar to the Nimbus 24 and New Balance 1080V12. The shoe fits true-to-size and also sells in a wide and extra-wide. This is a very warm shoe due to the low levels of ventilation – something to keep in mind during the summers.
2) Nike Invincible 3 (9 mm heel drop)
If you want the softest and plushest running shoe of all, look no further than the Nike Invincible 3.
The thick and wide midsole is made of 100% ZoomX foam – the same compound that powers the Vaporfly. It’s responsive, lightweight, and extremely comfortable for long-distance runs. It’s fitting that the cushy midsole is matched with a spacious upper and plush interior. If you want to know more, read our detailed review.
However, there’s a caveat – the Invincible 3 is best used for easy cruising rather than speed runs.
Even though the shoe has the same ZoomX foam that makes the Vaporfly a fast shoe, there’s no Carbon plate inside the Invincible Run. This is also a very high-volume midsole that adds to the shoe’s 11-ounce weight, so it’s nowhere as agile as Nike’s signature plated racer.
The Invincible 3 has a couple of changes that make it firmer than the Invincible 2. By adding a lasting fabric over the midsole, the foot no longer has direct access to the ZoomX foam. Secondly, the groove on the midsole sidewalls make them firmer than the Invincible V1 and V2.
Medial-posted stability shoes with an 8 to 10 mm heel offset
1) Asics Gel Kayano 29 (10 mm heel-to-toe offset)
The Asics Kayano 29 is one of the few running shoes with a firmer medial post. Asics doesn’t mention the firmer wedge, but it’s still there. It’s not obvious, that’s all. Our review breaks down the finer details of the Kayano 29.
Also, even with a medial post, the Kayano 29 is a supportive neutral trainer. The firmer wedge is barely noticed during runs. And if you want a toned-down version of the Kayano 29, the Asics GT-2000 11 is your go-to shoe.
The Flytefoam stack provides all the cushioning that needs for daily runs and long-distance training, whereas stability features like the molded heel clip and firmer midsole make the ride supportive.
The comfortable engineered mesh upper is offered in multiple widths.
2) New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo V5 (8 mm heel drop)
While most of the running shoe world is removing medial posts, New Balance is busy putting them back in.
How else would you else describe the Vongo V5? This 8 mm drop running shoe never had a medial post in its existence, but it has one now.
Unlike the earlier models that combined a deep outsole channel with a supportive inner midsole, the Vongo V5 now has a proper medial post. This makes the Vongo V5 a traditional stability shoe that also happens to be very cushioned. We see shades of the New Balance 1260 in the Vongo V5.
The wide Fresh Foam X midsole makes the Vongo an excellent choice for long-distance runs. The soft and stretchy upper has an accommodating fit and is also available in multiple widths.
Trail running shoes with an 8 to 10 mm heel offset
1) New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V7 (8 mm heel drop)
The 8 mm drop Fresh Foam Hierro V7 is a road-trail hybrid with plenty of ride and upper comfort.
The Fresh Foam midsole makes high-mileage trail runs less grueling; the Vibram outsole is grippy and protective over non-technical trails. The flat lug geometry makes it equally suitable for gravel paths and road sections.
The mesh upper has a closed-knit structure and fused toe-bumper to keep the debris out.
Also see: Nike Pegasus Trail 4 (9.5 mm heel drop).
2) Nike Wildhorse 8 (8 mm offset)
The Nike Wildhorse 8 is a versatile trail running shoe with decent off-road capabilities. The React foam midsole, a segmented heel plate, and an aggressively-lugged outsole create a cushioned yet protective ride.
The ventilated upper has a sleeved tongue that helps keep the debris out.
The Wildhorse 8’s redesigned midsole is nowhere as soft as the Wildhorse 7, and that enhances its everyday versatility – both from a terrain and speed standpoint. The higher level of stability means that you can take the Wildhorse 8 on trails that the Wildhorse 7 wasn’t a good fit for.
And why not the Terra Kiger 8? That’s because it’s got a lower heel-to-toe offset of 4.5 mm.
Speed-friendly running shoes with an 8 to 10 mm heel offset
1) Saucony Endorphin Speed V3 (8 mm heel drop)
The Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 isn’t just any running shoe with an 8 mm heel offset.
The lightweight PEBA midsole (8.1 oz/229 gms) is perfect for high-mileage runs, and the Nylon plate keeps things snappy. The spring-like action under the heel and the rocker forefoot make the Endorphin comfortable yet fast at the same time. Our comprehensive review dives deep into the Speed 3’s ride character.
Most Saucony uppers are very comfortable, and the Endorphin Speed is no exception. The soft and breathable mesh shell breathes extremely well while securing the foot over the midsole.
If you haven’t noticed, the Endorphin Speed 3 (like the Pro 3) is a top-to-bottom redesign that includes a brand-new midsole and plate design. The midsole is wider through the base; the Nylon plate has a ‘winged’ design that shows through the midfoot.
2) adidas adizero adios 7 (8 mm heel drop)
The adios 7 is yet another example of a forefoot strike-friendly running shoe with a high heel drop. The ribbed Continental rubber outsole provides plenty of traction and stability for forward landings and transitions.
Since both the adios 6 and 7 share the same midsole, it continues to be a speed-friendly shoe for races and tempo runs alike.
A combination midsole (Lightstrike Pro and Lightstrike EVA foam) infuses cushioning comfort into the low-profile midsole. So the adios 7 is nowhere as harsh as it once was. As we said in our detailed review of the adios 6, this adios is like the old adizero Boston.
The upper maintains its old-school racing flat aesthetic. A combination of soft synthetic suede over a thin mesh upper makes the interiors secure and breathable.