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As “Rocker” Style shoes gain popularity, this is what you need to know.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF RUNNING WITH A SHOE THAT HAS A "ROCKER" STYLE SOLE?
“Rocker” style shoes are characterized by a thicker sole compared to a regular shoe and a rounded heel ensuring that the wearer doesn’t have a flat surface along the length of the foot. The two most popular rocker style shoes are the toe rocker sole (the sole curves upward towards the toes) and the heel to toe rocker sole shoe (the sole curves upward at the front towards the toes and also at the back towards the heel. Both designs target a different biomechanical goal.
The benefits of a toe rocker sole are to reduce the pressure under the ball of the foot; therefore, this design helps treats hallux limitus (big toe arthritis), osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis of the forefoot and ball-of-foot pain by reducing the motion in the toe.
Heal to toe rocker style shoes are best to treat midfoot or ankle arthritis. This design limits the motion of the ankle and midfoot because the foot rolls faster off the heel.
Rocker shoes are also beneficial for patients with diabetes that need to redistribute their plantar pressure during gait. Rocker shoes are known to reduce peak plantar pressures in the medial forefoot, central forefoot and toe regions compared to the flatter style shoe therefore reduces the risk of ulcerations in the foot.
ARE THERE ANY RISKS TO RUNNING IN THIS TYPE OF SHOE? ANYONE WHOSE FOOT IT WOULD NOT BE GOOD FOR?
There are risks associated to running with rocker style shoes. Some wearers may have a hard time getting used to the altered gait pattern causing loss of balance and increasing the risk of falls and injury especially in the older adult population. There are also trade-offs to wearing rocker style shoes. While they decrease the load on the Achilles tendon, they also simultaneously increase the pressure on the knee joints. I do not recommend rocker style shoes as a permanent running shoe for anyone but for example, as an off-loading management when a patient is at the beginning phase of Achilles tendon rehabilitation. I also recommend each patient to have a gait evaluation to see where they are placing more excessive pressure prior to choosing the shoes that will benefit them the most. If rocker shoes are chosen, I recommend they also do gait training and transition into rocker shoes slowly. That means wearing them for one hour a day on the first day, two hours on the second day, three hours on the third day and so forth.