Rocker bottom shoes began as a shoe modification that was prescribed to patients suffering from such maladies as arthritis, plantar fasciitis, Morton's neuroma, and tendonitis. The principle behind the stiff rocker bottom is that force is distributed evenly throughout the foot with ambulation, thus decreasing stress concentration on the injured area.
In addition, such a sole decreases range of motion requirements on the ankle, hindfoot, and forefoot, decreasing pain if these joints are arthritic. The shape of the sole allows for propulsion while walking and can challenge certain muscle groups more than they are normally. That’s why these shoes have been marketed as a way to strengthen muscles, which could lead to weight loss. They are also advertised to cause a change in posture to take pressure off of achy, overused joints.
A study released by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) showed that toning shoes including Skechers Shape-Ups, MBT (Masai Barefoot Technology), and Reebok EasyTone don't help people exercise more intensely, burn more calories, or improve your muscle strength and tone. ACE chief science officer Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, said in a written release, “Toning shoes appear to promise a quick-and-easy fitness solution, which we realize people are always looking for. Unfortunately, these shoes do not deliver the fitness or muscle-toning benefits they claim."
The study was performed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and included 12 active women aged 19-24 who completed a dozen five-minute intervals on a treadmill while wearing Skechers Shape-Ups, Masai Barefoot Technology, Reebok’s EasyTone Reeinspire shoes, or traditional New Balance running shoes as researchers monitored how hard they worked. A second group of 12 women aged 21-27 performed a similar battery of five-minute treadmill tests in the various shoes while researchers measured muscle usage in their calves, quads, hamstrings, buttocks, back, and abs. The results showed that there was no significant difference in calories burned or muscle usage between the four types of shoes, the researchers reported.
The shoes are advertised to firm the body because the shoe’s unstable sole design causes wearers to use slightly different muscles to maintain balance, resulting in temporary soreness that will subside as the body adjusts to the shoe. However, these claims have been reputed by recent lawsuits, which accused companies of false advertising and now prohibit companies from making unsubstantiated health claims about the benefits of its shoes.
More important than a specific shoe style or new fad is maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle. If these shoes serve as a motivator for individuals to be more active, it is a good thing, even if they don’t produce the dramatic toning and calorie-burning results people think they are getting.