Busting Shoe Myths – The Skechers Rocker Bottom

Again, I’m busting orthopaedic shoe myths this month, so today, I take on . . .

Skechers Rocker Bottom ShoesThe Skechers “Shape-Ups” rocker bottom shoe.

More Silliness!!!  Please do not waste your money on these things.  Unless, that is, you strangely want to injure yourself and join in on a class action lawsuit against their manufacturer (there are various legal concerns for this shoe both in terms of false advertising and injury creation).  Once again, I have seen a number of unnecessary injuries as a result of activity in these shoes.  It creates an unnatural gait pattern which, when combined with full tibio-talar range of motion can create extensor tendonitis, Achilles tendonitis, and stress fractures.  Interestingly, the company seems to imply that it actually takes advantage of the unnatural gait pattern, which is energy inefficient, to increase calorie consumption and encourage weight loss.  That point is taken, and may indeed be a fair one, but it does not jive with the remainder of the shoes claims (such as improved posture, muscle tone, and balance).  There is nothing about energy inefficiency that will somehow naturally increase the tone in your gastrocnemius (which, by the way, based on the biomechanics encouraged by this shoe, it is my feeling would actually decrease).

From the manufacturer’s promotional materials: “Shape Ups are designed to enhance the benefits of walking by stimulating muscles not utilized with standard walking shoes.  They also reduce the impact on joints by providing a more natural, forgiving walking surface.  Walking on a soft surface may seem awkward at first, but your body will compensate by activating muscles in your legs, back and stomach to center your body, resulting in improved coordination and posture, stronger muscles, and increased blood flow.”  Ok, so much bad and unfounded information there that I don’t know where to begin. If you actually took the many leaps of faith you have take to buy this material you actually would get in shape.  Sadly, leaps of faith are also not a particularly good workout.  Suffice it to say that it is unlikely that any of these benefits could be proven to be true, if they could, they would annotate the studies which confirm (or even hint at) them.

I tell patients, you do realize that some of the most unfortunate genetic malformations known result in a “rocker-bottom” foot, right?  Sometimes a rocker-bottom foot can be helpful, when combined with immobilization of the subtalar and tibio-talar joints to allow for rest and healing in cases of fracture or tendon rupture, but this requires casting or booting. Generally speaking, this is intended to be a unilateral (one side only), temporary immobilizing treatment.  If the claims of this shoe were true, you would have seen orthopaedists placing patients in casts and then encouraging the patient to exercise in them.

These shoes are, in my opinion, misleading in their claims at best, injurious at worst.  It is my sense that they will likely not be available for long as they are the subject of extensive ongoing class-action litigation.   Perhaps my favorite feedback I received in doing the research for this blog was a person who said, “One day we’ll see these shoes on a VH1 special, ‘That’s So 2000’s!” These shoes might work nicely to prevent injury if they were coupled with ankle immobilization, and activity limitation, but alas they are not, and I cannot recommend these devices for daily wear or for fitness.

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