Rocker bottom shoes have recently gained considerable popularity, likely in part because of the many purported benefits, including reducing joint loading and toning muscles. Scientific inquiry about these benefits has not kept pace with the increased usage of this shoe type. A fundamental premise of rocker bottom shoes is that they transform hard, flat, level surfaces into more uneven ones. Published studies have described a variety of such shoes—all having a somewhat rounded bottom and a cut heel region or a cut forefoot region, or both (double rocker). Despite the fundamentally similar shoe geometries, the reported effects of rocker bottom shoes on gait biomechanics have varied considerably. Ten healthy subjects agreed to participate in the present study and were given appropriately sized Masai Barefoot Technology (St. Louis, MO), Skechers™ (Manhattan Beach, CA), and New Balance (Boston, MA) conventional walking shoes. After a 12-day accommodation period, the subjects walked wearing each shoe while 3-dimensional motion and force data were collected in the gait laboratory. The key findings included (1) increased trunk flexion, decreased ankle plantarflexion range, and reduced plantarflexion moment in the early stance; (2) increased ankle dorsiflexion and knee flexor moment in the midstance; (3) decreased peak ankle plantarflexion in the late stance; and (4) decreased ankle plantarflexion and decreased hip flexor and knee extensor moments in the pre-swing and into swing phase. The walking speed was unconstrained and was maintained across all shoe types. A biomechanical explanation is suggested for the observed changes. Suggestions for cautions are provided for using rocker bottom shoes in patients with neuromuscular insufficiency.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine