Have you considered trying rocker-bottom shoes? Also marketed as “toning shoes,” these shoes posses curved soles reminiscent of a rocking chair base. The original rocker-bottom shoes were made by the Swiss shoe maker MBT and referred to as the “anti-shoe.” Ironically, the brand name New Balance also made a market entry with their “Rock & Tone.” Other name brand examples include Sketchers “Shape Ups” and Clarks “Waves.” Since these shoes are designed for daily wear, instead of use reserved for workouts, their impact on a person’s body can be quite significant—for better, or for worse. Even patients who aren’t approved for strenuous activity could be led into thinking that wearing these shoes would be a healthy move.
Before we determine whether these shoes could benefit you, let’s go into the physiology of how they work. Admittedly, these “fitness shoes” create a feeling of imbalance that the human body attempts to rectify by using ankle and foot muscles. The rocker-bottom shoe, in essence, requires the muscles round the ankle to work much harder than they would normally work when a person is standing on a level surface. The next step that the body naturally takes toward achieving balance is to involve the hips. To visualize this, imagine trying to walk across a balance beam. Since your center of balance is found in your hips, you’d naturally move them from side to side in order to remain on the beam. With rocker-bottom shoes, the movement tends to be from front to back, instead of side to side.
Those who are in good health may find that these shoes aid in their quest to lose weight, heighten the efficiency of their daily walking routine, and increase calf muscle tone. Some report feeling “workout sore” as a result of wearing the shoes for everyday activities.
Especially when patients’ leg or hip muscles might be overly stressed already (for instance, after joint-replacement surgery), the extra stress caused by wearing these toning shoes can be a precursor to disaster. Awkward, jerky motions are signs that your muscles are not able to handle the extra stress safely. If these shoes make you easily mistaken for someone who’s inebriated, they’re not a good fit for you. Any potential toning benefit would be eclipsed by the damage caused to your body by a fall. Even without a major accident, jerking the spine around can cause painful problems.
Basically, if you feel like you’re about to fall, your body is telling you that these shoes aren’t right for you, and you’d do well to listen. This advice rings true, even if you’re in optimal health and have no orthopedic surgery in your recent past. You need to know that many people have fallen while wearing these shoes, prompting class-action law suits against makers of the shoes.
If you’re unsure about whether rocker-bottom shoes are a safe fitness tool for you, take the time to ask your doctor or physical therapist.
PhysioDC of Washington, D.C.
Daniel Baumstark and his professional team of physical therapists operate a boutique physical therapy office in downtown Washington, D.C. From athletes to government officials, and from ballerinas to corporate executives, PhysioDC helps people recover, strengthen and return to healthy living. Visit their website at www.PhysioDC.com.