What Is Heel Drop And Why Does It Matter

One aspect you may have heard of when it comes to work boots, leather boots for casual or general wear or shoes is the heel drop.

The heel drop is the difference in height between the ball of the foot and the heel when wearing a pair of shoes or boots. Typically, it's measured in millimeters or in fractions of an inch for those of us who aren't too fancy.

Before we get too much more in-depth, heel drop is somewhat important in that it has an effect on wearing a pair of casual or work boots, specifically the position they put your foot in. A high or low heel drop may be beneficial, depending on the application, and you may or may not find it comfortable.

It isn't that there's one heel height to rule them all, but more that it's something you should know about to help guide your decision on what pair of boots to get. After all, you'll get a better experience if you buy the right boot for you...but won't if you don't.

Heel Drop And Foot Position

foot position when wearing boots

So, why does heel drop matter?

It has to do with the overall position of the foot inside the boot or shoe and the effect that the heel profile has on your foot, especially once the foot is in motion.

Here's why that matters.

A raised heel profile or high heel drop, positions the heel of the foot above the ball of the foot and therefore distributes the center of gravity forward, onto the balls of your feet.

When you wear a boot with a tall heel, such as a pair made in the logger boot style, your foot will roll forward and you'll start to shift your weight forward.

With a lower heel, such as a boot with a lower-profile heel or a pair of sneakers, your foot will be a lot flatter, with your weight distributed more evenly. You'll feel a little more planted as a result.

Both a raised heel and a low heel help with shock absorption, as a flatter heel profile lets the foot flex more naturally but a raised heel puts more material under the heel, creating a buffer.

Boot Heel Drop And Preference

Partially, what heel you should select comes down to your preference. You'll find that you may prefer a taller or shorter heel, and therefore will gravitate more toward that kind of footwear.

Some people vastly prefer the latter due to their boots or shoes having more of a "barefoot" and natural feel, which can make a pair of broken-in boots feel almost like your favorite pair of sneakers.

That, of course, is also part and parcel to what made "barefoot shoes" so popular in recent years.

However, some people do prefer a raised heel, either just because they like the additional rigidity or if they find they need a bit more arch support.

Is there a reason, though, why you might need a lower or higher heel drop?

Boot Heels And Practical Applications

practical application of boot heels

So, there are actual practical applications for a raised boot heel. In certain professions, it's not only beneficial but necessary.

For instance, linemen need a contact surface between the heel and forefoot for climbing ladders. This is necessary for safe ascension, as you need to be able to work from the ladder without fear of falling.

People who work outdoors, such as loggers, ranchers and wildland firefighters, usually find that a flatter heel profile on boots doesn't give them the support and stability they need on uneven terrain, especially when going uphill.

For instance, the heel drop on our taller boot heel profiles, such as the Builder Pro work boots, have a full 1" of heel drop, for the utmost in support.

It's also the case that a somewhat raised heel, even a modest increase in heel drop, is also beneficial for backpackers or people in the service carrying a rucksack. That extra heel support helps when carrying a heavy pack.

Some people also find a modest heel to be the best middle ground, being casual enough for daily wear but supportive enough for hiking, yard work and whatever else you might want to do.

Our Officer boots, for instance, have less than ¾", enough to give the heel a bit of support but not so tall that it gives them a cowboy boot feel, an excellent middle ground for many applications.

However, some people also find that a lower heel profile is far more beneficial.

One of the key features of the popular wedge sole work boot style is a minimal heel drop, which gives such boots a flat-footed feel, almost like a pair of sneakers.

This makes such footwear very popular among factory workers, who are on hard concrete all day, iron workers who walk over rebar, and other tradesmen whose feet take a pounding. The flatter foot profile helps the foot act more naturally as a shock absorber.

Our Traveler wedge sole boots have an even lower heel, close to ½" of heel drop. These have a barefoot feel, giving you good support but without a heel block.

Flatter heels are also good for certain sport applications like weight lifting, especially when performing heavy deadlifts or squats. Some trainers recommend doing such lifts barefoot for the most efficient and natural movement of the foot...though this is not our area of expertise, just something we've heard a lot!

What this means, of course, is that what you want to do is consider what you prefer in your boots, as well as the application you have in mind, and choose accordingly. Make the right choice, and you'll get a pair of boots you can wear for the rest of your life.