Sorry it took so long to get back to this topic. I thought I'd discuss these here as I seem to get more and more questions about rocker bottom shoes from patients.
If you are not familiar with rocker bottom shoes, they otherwise look like athletic or casual shoes with a thicker sole that is rounded on the bottom in an arc like the bottom of a rocking chair. The shoe companies that make these promote them as being a way to work your leg muscles without exercising as well as a way to promote better posture.
I've been a bit skeptical, and have not been able to recommend them when asked about them as I have not had any personal experience with them. I still have not had any personal experience but have had several patients swear by them. I did look up a few research studies that have been conducted to try to get a feel for them. Here is a synopsis of some findings and interpretations that seem to be consistent among several studies.
- may provide benefit for running related conditions at the ankle without increased risk to knee and hip
- reduced knee pain and improved balance in patients with osteoarthritis
- changed movement patterns particularly at the ankle and increased muscle activity of the lower leg
This is based on a few research studies that I'd be happy to share the citations to for anyone that would like them. I'm still not sure if I'm ready to endorse them as I'm not sure if the benefits justify the cost of the shoes. I've yet to find any person or research that has concluded them to be harmful.
If you have used these, let me know what you think.
||The following is feedback received for this blog:|
I have been using this type of shoe for a few months. Before I tried them on, I was skeptical about their benefits and concerned about feeling unbalanced. I put a pair of the Scetcher brand on at Kohls and walked about for ten minutes to try them out. Almost immediately, I had a "where have you been all my life" moment. I love them! I am a lymphoma patient with various aches and pains and peripheral neuropathy. I find these shoes exceptionally comfortable and supportive, and they ease my joint pains. When my husband saw me literally running around in them, he said "Get another pair!" For me, they have been a great investment for my comfort and health. I feel energized in them and have encouraged others to try them as each person's experience may be different. I wouldn't expect to suddenly start losing weight, but if you find them comfortable and they cause you to enjoy walking more, you probably will get into better shape.
(no name given)
I have read (research-wise) that although the shoes have benefits initially, the person will eventually accomodate to the rocker bottom shoe and will no longer feel the benefits of the muscle toning after a month of wear. There is also an increased incidence of hallux stiffness due to the lack of push-off during gait, which can lead to even more problems.
(no name given)
Thank you both for your recent feedback. The couple of studies that I briefly summarized are really only scratching the surface. There are many more studies out there and the shoes are still relatively new on the market. I would anticipate more research to come. With respect to accommodating to them, as with anything that probably is true to a point. The first toe stiffness referenced by one reader could certainly be a possibility. I have not seen that cited in the research I have read. I will continue to look at research on these and pass along any interesting new information that I find. Thanks again for the responses and discussion!
- Jeff Wilkens
I am not sure whether rocker bottom shoes can cause hallux limitus/rigidus but I started using them because I already had that condition and walking was painful and awkward as I tried to avoid flexing my toes. Surgery was offered but meanwhile at a foot clinic it was suggested that I might find these shoes helpful. I bought MBTs (all that was around at that time) and found them a huge help. In addition to helping me walk without toe pain, my knees and hips appreciate the extreme cushioning that the soles offer especially going down steps. Yes they were expensive but there are nearly always last year's styles reduced in price.
I woudl have to argue against the Rocker bottom shoes. Although they may have increased cushion that decrease pain for some individuals, the cost of losing normal body mechanics and proprioception is too high. At initial contact during normal gait, there is something called the heel rocker (our body's own version of transferring downward force into forward force), the rocker-bottom shoes tend to eliminate either the use/ timing of this natural rocker. This poor timing may lead into the other rockers along the foot. Also, proprioception needed for proper mechanich is also altered due to the large soles. Therapists might benefit from "Gait Analysis: Normal and Pathological Function" by Jacquelin Perry.
(no name given)