Let's Talk Heel-Toe Offset

I've read a lot over the years about heel-toe offset, and there seems to be little if any consensus about whether it matters (and if so, how much).

In particular, for a runner who rotates 3-4 pairs of shoes that include, to use RW's delineations, 5-6mm (Hoka, Skechers, some New Balance), 7-8 mm (Saucony), and 9-10 (Asics, Adidas, Nike), is that range of 5mm likely to lead to stress injuries in the foot/achilles/lower leg? Or even going down to a 4mm and increasing that range to 4mm-10mm?

My own assumption is that a variety of offsets is just fine for most people so long as you're not going all the way down to 0mm, but then again I've only run in 6mm-10mm shoes. Would love to hear the community's thoughts on this - and especially the RW team that's putting people in shoes day in and day out.
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I agree about there being a lack of consensus about heel-toe offset. For me, an offset of 8 or less is best. I found that running multiple days in 10mm drops or higher lead to knee or IT Band discomfort. I like the idea of switching up drops so my body doesn't get used to the same position, but I also feel switching between shoes with the same drop works just as well. I run mostly in 4mm or 6mm shoes, and sometimes 8mm shoes.

I used to fit people for shoes and generally found that a 2mm difference was an easy change and 4mm was workable without much need, if any, of a transition time. Anything over 4mm ( a bit arbitrary) seemed to suggest alternating between the new and old drop.

RW Staff

Staff member
@ChrisMia, great questions regarding heel-toe offset. In regards to it, it is only one of several factors that we take into consideration when making a shoe recommendation. For the most part, it comes down to personal preferences. We typically look at lower drop shoes when customers are looking to work on their gait (i.e., people working to become more forefoot strikers) because shoes with higher/bulkier heels tend to promote heel striking, or are looking for a minimal/barefoot type of experience. However, before recommending a lower drop shoe, we recommend customers work their way down to lower drops to avoid injury. Generally, runners can go up or down 2-4mm before feeling the effects of the change in the drop in a shoe.

Another benefit of going to a lower drop is for people with toe and metatarsal pain/neuroma. The lower drop reduces pressure on the toes, which reduces pain and even the tingling sensation.

When fitting customers in our retail space, if a customer expresses Achilles discomfort or a history of Achilles tendonitis, we typically recommend a shoe with a higher heel-toe offset. This is also beneficial for people with tight calves as it reduces the strain on them.

Runners who have multiple shoes in their rotation with different offsets are fine if the runner has built up the proper training to go down to the lower drops. I can tell you that my current rotation uses shoes that are a 0mm, 4mm, 8mm, and 12mm offset. The zero drop was a little rough at first, but now I don't have a problem switching between them.

RW Staff
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Interesting to see that both @SpyTheGuy and @RW Staff share the opinion that, generally speaking, runners shouldn't have a problem moving 2-4mm from what they're used to. And I also tend to believe that the small changes in load, etc. created by running in varied offsets can help prevent some of the repetitive stress niggles and injuries that runners experience (though my experience is anecdotal and admittedly limited, I'm running higher volume and healthier than I ever did by not running in the same shoe/offset two days in a row - if nothing else, it gives me a defensible reason to geek out and buy more shoes!).