Recently, another “technical” article was published that dispelled the theory that rocker soled shoes such as Chung Shi, MBT, and now even Skechers, do not do what they purport to do, strengthen your core and tone your legs and tooshies!
As a pedorthist and having become quite familiar with lower extremity biomechanics, muscle relationships, and the human gait, I would like to bring some honest clarity to the topic.
First of all, the latest article or “commissioned research” has now ‘proven’ that there is absolutely no relationship between rocker soled shoes and toning. Of course, there is no real way of knowing if this article was sanctioned by some entity within the shoe industry whose market share has been trampled because of the rocker sole craze, just as there is now way of knowing that MBT’s and Chung Shi’s research could have been slanted.
With that said, allow me to explain the underlying technology and applications of rocker soled shoes and why they are now more relevent in the footwear and foot care industry.
ORIGINS OF THE ROCKER SHOE
Rocker soles have been utilized for decades as primarily a clinical modality for many forms of foot problems. The primary purpose for the rocker sole is to off-load (or de-pressurize or reduce shear forces) from the plantar or bottom surface of the foot . Rocker soles have been used by pedorthists, orthotists, and other clinicians to assist healing in ulcerations in the feet due to complications from diabetes, Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD), Charcot Marie Tooth Disorder, Charcot Foot, etc. Many times, a rocker sole will be used as a post operative intervention, again to off-load certain areas of the foot.
THE PHYSIOLOGICAL FUNCTION OF ROCKER SOLES
The primary function of rocker soles is to place the foot on an uneven walking surface, the way the human foot was meant to walk. The foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, and 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It is a dynamic machine that is intended to walk on dynamic, uneven surfaces.
While placing the foot in a compromised position (compared to our typical flat surface walking), the foot must recruit or “fire” other muscles to support it. This recruitment of muscles is key to building strength in the lower extremities, especially in the ankle area.
Is this motion good for everybody? Absolutely not! Those with compromised balance due to stroke or other neurological issues, orthopedic problems, diabetes, etc. may not be good candidates.
However, there is objective data that does suggest that rocker soled shoes ABSOLUTELY promote significant lower extremity muscle activity, which can lead to toning and strengthening. Those that are looking to rehab from an injury, can conservatively utilize rocker soles to do so.
Ok, I have sold thousands of pairs of rocker soled shoes. So, how can I maintain my objectivity?
I began with the MBT shoes, then quickly transitioned to my favorite, the Chung Shi technology. I like Chung Shi due to its design which promotes a lateral heel strike, roles the foot into pronation (to adapt to the terrain), then re-supinates the foot to prepare it for toe off. It also has a very stable feel and comes in two technologies, a rocker or lever effect, and a more stable than MBT roller bottom. I have experimented with other rockers with various levels of success.
I have also utilized rocker technologies on existing soles by making shoe modifications in my pedorthic lab for many of the reasons I mentioned above. I also placed a custom orthotic in the shoe to control inward motion (pronation). Our results were outstanding!
What is my opinion? I really do not know! How’s that for honesty. I will tell you this, I have always used the “toning” aspect as the LAST comment I make when I explain the features and benefits of the rocker soled shoes. I make it a point to focus on the health and wellness aspects of the shoes, how we have successfully helped those with heel pain, arthritic feet, metatarsalgia, etc. I honestly use levity and lightheartedness when referring to the toning aspect of these shoes. I do believe 100% that these shoes do enhance muscle stimulation and make the lower leg and ankle stronger. How do I know for sure? Unlike “studies” with small short term focused groups that may be biased, I have sold thousands to folks who have told me. Most important, I have been wearing them almost exclusively for five years and have noticed a remarkable difference in the strength of my calf muscles, ankles and legs. As far as my toosh goes, ask my wife about that !!!!!!