Today, we’re going to be looking at some of the best 12mm drop running shoes in 2021 for men and women.
I guess your injury history and your running style may actually contribute to choosing a 12mm drop shoe over a lower-drop shoe or vice-versa.
While this is not a definitive rule, we just know from correlations that a higher-drop shoe is going to allow for and promote a rearfoot strike and is going to stress your body at the level of the knee and above. Then, a lower-drop shoe is going to bias a forefoot strike, which is going to stress your foot and ankle more.
Without further ado, let’s dive right into it…
Running Shoe Heel Drop Chart
8mm Drop Running Shoes
12mm Drop Running Shoes
Brooks 12mm Drop Shoes
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21
The Adrenaline is a stability running shoe and one of the more popular stability shoes in the Brooks range. It provides stability using GuideRails which sit on both the medial side and the lateral side as well.
Even though the Adrenaline is great for long-distance running and everyday runs, you could also wear it for your 5ks, Park Runs, and 10ks. It’s not a speedy shoe, but it’s more about comfort and great fit and really soaking up those miles.
- Great DNA Loft midsole experience
- Cushioned yet supportive ride
- Great medial & lateral GuideRail stability system
- Plush upper which is accommodating to most foot types
- Multiple widths are available & the shoe fits true to size
- Transitions are nicely comfortable & smooth
- High drop (not an issue if you’re used to that)
- A bit heavy
What’s beautiful about these GuideRails is that when your foot doesn’t really roll inward at all when it’s landing, they aren’t going to activate and aren’t going to get interfere with the way you run. But if your feet do roll one way or the other, the GuideRails are going to prevent that from happening.
The other stability feature is the stout heel counter which is going to keep the heel locked in securely providing more heel stability.
Midsole, Upper, Outsole
The midsole is now DNA Loft all the way from heel to toe, which is going to create a smoother heel transition. The Adrenaline boasts a new 3D engineered mesh upper offering some breathability at the front.
The outsole has got some really durable rubber and you can wear this shoe in most conditions and you’re not going to slip and slide all around.
Although the Adrenaline has knocked a few ounces off of the weight compared to the previous version, it’s still a bit on the heavy side. Compared to the previous two iterations, the Adrenaline has a similar amount of cushioning to the 19 but Brooks added quite a bit of bounce to it.
Running in the Adrenaline GTS 21 does not feel like running in other stability shoes because of the GuideRail system.
Related: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 vs GTS 22
Brooks Ghost 14
This is a neutral mid-level cushioned everyday workhorse that covers a wide range of profiles. If you’re in the neutral category and/or if you’re supinating, this is going to fit your profile pretty well. Also, if you don’t want or need the max amount of cushioning or a super-light and fast shoe, the Ghost could be the ticket for you.
- Abundance of durable rubber coverage & quality cushioning underfoot
- Can handle long runs, short runs, slow runs, fast runs
- Holds your foot very well thanks to the premium upper material
- One-piece DNA Loft instead of dual-density foams is a huge step in the right direction
- Ride is smooth & stable even on light trails
- Available in a wide variety of widths and lengths
- Great traction & grip
- Not a light shoe (not in the heavy category either)
- No gusseted tongue (but still doesn’t slide from side to side)
Jump down to Brooks Beast & Ariel
One of the first things that really stand out about the Ghost is the great fit. The Ghost fits the foot really really well. In the midfoot, you’re going to be locked in and your foot isn’t going to slide around, but in the forefoot, you have plenty of room for your toes to splay out naturally.
The toe box has no seams and no overlays or anything that could potentially be irritant to your foot. In the heel, Brooks is using this nice padded ankle collar which is very comfortable next to your skin.
Brooks is now using a DNA Loft midsole throughout the whole shoe. This DNA Loft midsole material creates a very soft and cushioned ride. It’s not marshmallowy soft so you feel like you’re bottoming out, but it’s just that really nice feel on the road that makes running more enjoyable.
Again, if you’re looking for that super-consistent workhorse everyday trainer, the Ghost 14 checks a lot of those boxes.
Related: Brooks Ghost 13 vs Ghost 14
Brooks Beast & Ariel
Having been around forever, the Beast is the men’s version and the Ariel is the exact same shoe specifically designed for women. A lot of pediatricians have been recommending these shoes for decades for people with weird issues with knees, pronation, and stuff like that.
The runners that really need the Beast and Ariel are runners that need a huge amount of support. These shoes were designed for people who have really bad fallen arches and their feet provide no natural support at all.
- Now uses Guiderails stability system (unobtrusive stability)
- The ride now gives a smoother ride than before
- Really comfy for running and walking purposes
- Flexible & offers forefoot room
- Breathable & moisture-wicking
- Too heavy (typical for a motion control shoe)
- Outsole might trap rocks
Jump down to Mizuno Wave Rider 14
New Stability System
The great news is the new Beast 20 is way better than previous versions. Previous Beasts used to feature that big Beast feel with that really big firm medial posting. That old approach to stability didn’t actually allow people to do much of anything. I mean it really was a tank of a shoe.
So, Brooks took out the hard piece of posting and put on their new durable GuideRails, which has become a game-changer for a lot of people. But now, because of the new GuideRail system, even neutral runners and supinators who are really hard on their bodies and joints can wear the Beast and Ariel.
In fact, the new Beast has gone down an ounce and a half and the Ariel has gone down about an ounce, which means these shoes are getting lighter and don’t feel as much of a tank anymore.
Other people swear by the support and comfort of these shoes especially for walking and for really long shifts at work.
Again, the Beast and Ariel are still a big beefy beast of a shoe but now they don’t quite have that same feeling of like a tank on your foot. They feel nice and still have as much support and the same nice soft plush interior.
Mizuno 12mm Drop Shoes
While Asics are the stars of 10mm drop running shoes, Mizuno have the most offerings in 12mm shoes.
Mizuno Wave Rider 24
First off, Mizuno is the only brand that makes the most 12mm drop running shoes in the market today.
The Wave Rider 24 is by far Mizuno’s most popular standard cushion neutral shoe. It’s great for that runner who’s desiring a cushioned responsive feeling.
This is a great everyday shoe for your long daily miles that you’re going to be going at your slower paces. This is not a race shoe or a speedy shoe. This is a shoe that you’re just going to be cruising in and logging in your daily miles.
Related: Mizuno Wave Rider 24 vs 25
- Midsole material is responsive & heel cushioning is soft
- Deeper flex grooves for better overall flow
- Responsive cushioned ride especially for heel strikers
- Breathable upper material
- Excellent traction & grip
- Lots of flexibility thanks to the segmented outsole
- Ample toebox room even for big runners
- Great for lockdown
- Outsole might be less durable (softer rubber)
Jump down to Mizuno Wave Inspire 17
The Wave Rider is still coming in at a 12-millimeter drop but they increased the stack height by a millimeter. This is going to give you an overall softer feeling and a little bit more padding underneath your foot.
Related: Mizuno Waver Rider vs Brooks Ghost
The shoe’s fantastic midsole setup is exactly why people keep coming back to the Wave Rider series and this is why…
On the very bottom, there’s a new foam in the heel wedge called Enerzy foam. Enerzy offers just a lighter, softer, more responsive, and bouncier feeling giving you that smoother transition through the gait cycle.
Right above the heel wedge Enerzy foam, you have the Cloud Wave which Mizuno has always been known for. With this update, they decreased the overall size of the Cloud Wave but also increased the flexibility of it as well. This creates a smoother transition for a softer feeling while also being more responsive giving you that snap forward that Mizuno is very known for. Above the Cloud Wave, you have full-length U4ic foam for that cushioning system.
The Wave Plate is going to stiffen up and provide the energy return that you’re looking for to keep you going on those long daily miles.
The Wave Rider 24 is available in two versions. You have an engineered mesh version which is going to be great for that person who needs a little bit more breathability and overall comfort towards that traditional style running shoe. You also have a premium shoe collar along with a premium sock liner. Before, it was more of an athletic jersey-type mesh, but this is more of a dual-layer mesh that really lets your foot breathe.
This shoe also comes in a Wave knit version. It’s a vector-style knit which is it’s going to actually stretch four directions medial, lateral, heel to toe, and also give you a great secure hold at the same time. It has more of a sock-like fit giving you nice support on that platform but also giving to your foot’s natural flow.
The tongue is now gusseted on both sides, which is going to help lock your feet in better. The heel counter is not super thick, which means the Wave Ride is not going to run super-hot. While the heel counter is not the most padded or the softest in the world, it’s just nice and solid and gets the job done.
Again, the Mizuno Wave Rider 24 is a shoe for your long daily runs where you’re not necessarily breaking PRs but you’re getting that aerobic base in and you’re really building your mileage.
Mizuno Wave Inspire 17
Every year, Mizuno seems to improve the Inspire in a way that makes it completely new without messing with what’s good about the shoe.
This is going to be your everyday long-distance stability trainer. If you’re a 5k or 10k person, you’re probably not going to want this shoe as a racer. It’s not that it can’t do it, but you probably want something that’s a lot more of a faster-feeling shoe.
- Lighter & softer ENERZY cushioning compound
- Offers a cushioned & soft ride
- Offers moderate stability when needed
- Can pick up the pace easily
- Fit is almost perfect
- Foot lockdown is incredible
- Good grip through the outsole
- Quality construction
- A bit on the heavy side
Obviously, this is a support shoe which adds medial support for those who overpronate somewhat and/or have lower arches that need that extra support. It’s also good for people who just like to have that extra cushioning and support on the medial side.
If you like what the Inspire series has to offer but you normally run in a neutral shoe and you don’t need all that support, look into the Wave Rider 24 above and I think you’ll be quite happy.
The Wave Inspire 17 is essentially a stable firm ride. It’s got that TPU Wave Plate sitting through the rearfoot of the shoe, which helps spread load out a little bit more evenly across the whole shoe as well as provide a nice sort of platform for the softer cushioning to sit on.
As you may have noticed, a lot of shoes are moving to more foamy-based midsoles with a softer plush feeling. But if you’re finding that you’re coming from that firmer background and you still like that firm feeling underfoot, the Inspire 17 is going to be a nice one for you.
In the heel, they’ve added their Enerzy foam which is softer and more responsive than the previous midsole compound. Added to that is the Wave Plate technology which was reduced a little bit to make the shoe a little bit more responsive. All of that combined together is going to make the shoe smoother, more responsive, and a little bit softer than before.
The Inspire has a new Air mesh upper that’s actually very breathable on the mesh version. But the upper on the WaveKnit version is a little bit more accommodating and it’s just going to fit and wrap around your foot a little bit better to keep your foot held in.
One thing that Mizuno does really well is they offer a variety of widths. So you can get a wide version in the men’s and the women’s if you need that extra room in the forefoot.
Outsole & Durability
One of the other noticeable changes they’ve done across most of their other shoes is they moved away from that kind of separation in the outsole. The outsole now has more ground contact with a little bit deeper lugs and a deeper heel groove that kind of acts like a trampoline.
They also adjusted the women’s width adding 2mm in the ball of the foot and 6mm in the upper to provide an industry-standard width, which is an improvement over the Wave Inspire 16.
Mizuno does a really good job of making really durable shoes. The outsole and midsole don’t wear out prematurely and you can get hundreds of miles out of these shoes.
As a daily trainer, this is phenomenal because you don’t want to be spending tons of money just replacing your daily trainers all the time. Overall, the Mizuno Wave Inspire 17 is the perfect money-saving shoe.
Other 12mm drop shoes from Mizuno include:
- Mizuno Wave Prophecy
- Mizuno WaveKnit R2
- Mizuno Wave Paradox 4
- Mizuno Synchro MX 2
- Mizuno Wave Tenjin
- Mizuno Wave Prodigy 2
- Mizuno Wave Ultima 11
- Mizuno Wave Equate 3
- Mizuno Spark
Nike 12mm Drop Shoes
Nike Odyssey 2
With a 12-millimeter heel-to-toe offset, the Zoom Odyssey 2 is a premium stability daily running shoe designed for moderate to severe overpronators.
This is perfect for long runs but also for some quicker paces. It’s a great shoe that I highly recommend for anybody looking for a cushioned and supportive trainer.
- Smooth interior experience
- Offers a supportive ride
- Transitions are quick enough
- Responsiveness gets better when you pick the pace
- Lack of width options
Jump down to Saucony Cohesion 14
Midsole & Outsole
Continuing the use of a triple density support system with a full-length medial post, the Odyssey 2 helps reduce the rate of overpronation while maintaining a smooth ride.
A nice thing about the support is it doesn’t feel rigid like some other shoes. The shoe has Zoom units in the heel and the forefoot to add a nice amount of responsiveness and pop to the shoe, which is ideal for daily road training. The outsole is pretty durable and has good grip on the roads.
The Fly Mesh upper is still really lightweight and minimal yet it locks your foot down nicely. One big change on the upper is the padding. The original Odyssey had a pretty decent amount of padding, but Nike really wanted to differentiate the Odyssey from the Nike Structure. So they made the Odyssey a lot more plush especially around the heel, the ankle collar, and the tongue as well. I guess these changes make the shoe feel a little bit more premium.
Another big change is the heel counter went from being a piece of plastic around the heel to this more elaborate denser foam construction. I found that it isn’t very obtrusive yet it still keeps your heel nice and locked in.
Overall, the Nike Odyssey 2 takes everything people loved about the first version and improved upon it a little bit. It’s plush and responsive at the same time and has a lot of support. The upper is also able to keep your foot locked down without any unnecessary overlays while the newly designed heel counter provides a secure wrap throughout the foot.
Saucony 12mm Drop Shoes
Saucony Cohesion 14
The Saucony Cohesion 14 is a really cheap shoe for neutral runners who have a medium to high arch. It doesn’t offer a ton of bells and whistles but for the price, it’s pretty hard to beat.
The Cohesion is a great choice for anyone who is just looking to get into running or anyone who is getting into some serious mileage in their walking regimen. Again, this shoe doesn’t offer a ton of technology, but if you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, this is a great choice for you.
- Very affordable
- Toebox is nice and big
- Great foot lockdown
- Guaranteed traction on varied surfaces
- Available in a wide version
- Durable rubber on the outsole
- Requires break-in time
- Lacks technology
Jump down to Asics Gel Pulse 12
Midsole & Outsole
The midsole is made up of Saucony’s Versa Run cushioning which extends from the heel all the way up to the toe. This cushioning setup is great for slower-paced long runs, but this midsole doesn’t offer a ton of responsiveness for speedier runs.
The outsole is slightly different than the Cohesion 13. It is still made up of the same trusted durable rubber that they always use. There are little flex grooves throughout the sole to offer some flexibility when striking the ground.
The newer model has more lug patterns on the bottom of the shoe and that’s to allow for better grip. You can use this shoe on concrete, on the road, and on gravel surfaces.
The upper is made up of engineered mesh which is a little bit rougher and thicker than some engineered meshes in other shoes. It has a few stitched-in overlays around the midfoot and the heel to offer some extra support and really secure your foot into the shoe.
The tongue and the collar are definitely on the thicker side but not overly thick. This shoe is going to keep the top of your feet really comfortable. It’s also going to support your Achilles and your ankles. As for fit, if you do have a wider foot, Saucony does offer this shoe in a wider version.
Although this budget-friendly running shoe does not offer a ton of technology, it just feels pretty solid and it is a prime example of not judging a book by its cover.
Asics 12mm Drop Shoes
Asics Gel Pulse 12
- Neutral yet supportive
- Upper is snug and comfortable
- LAcing system offers a secure feel
- Outsole traction is nice
- Might feel tight for some runners
- Lacks technology
Higher Drop Shoes vs Lower Drop Shoes
The reason why higher-drop shoes promote heel striking is there’s just usually a lot of stuff going on in the heel area. These shoes have kind of a slope from the heel to the toe, which means there’s just more stuff to have to clear the ground when your foot’s coming through. Inevitably, the heel is going to hit the ground first and that’s going to promote more of that heel strike.
Conversely, a lower-drop shoe like the 4mm Kinvara 12 is going to have less of a stack height and less stuff going on in the heel. These shoes just allow your body to bring your foot forward more and allow for that forefoot strike.
So, there are some correlations where running styles and runners may choose different shoes to promote their gait and strike pattern, but it can also be the opposite where you have new runners picking shoes that will actually help dictate that for them.
So, those were our best 12mm drop running shoes. If you think we missed a good shoe, please let us know in the comments.
2 thoughts on “Best 12mm Drop Running Shoes – Mizuno, Brooks, Saucony, Asics”
You descriptors of high versus low stack height seem limited by narrow experience. If a person runs UP STEEP hills, you want a LOT of stack height to protect the achilles tendon from hyper-extension when hours of running uphill leave the athlete TIRED. ALL of my trail runs in the Rockies are steep hills. I don’t want a lot of stack height, but I do want a lot of “drop.” Not much force is placed upon that high heel when going up hill, so if that heel is also kinda soft and springy, then it is good for going back down, too! So what shoe is made this way? I would like to know as would all of us who run the mountains.
I appreciate your addition and I respect your point of view.