Rocker bottom shoes have become more and more commonplace. What started off as what we would call clunky clown shoes, now look relatively normal. Most running brands now have a rocker-bottom style in their shoe range.
What is a rocker bottom shoe?
A rocker bottom shoe is a type of shoe that usually has a thicker than a normal sole. The curved sole of the shoe is designed to aid in the smooth transition from heel-strike to toe-off. Rocker bottom shoes have been around for decades, where they were originally used in the diabetic population to redistribute plantar pressures and prevent diabetic foot problems.
Why rocker bottom shoes?
Rocker bottom shoes have gained hype from a few recently successful shoes which have been used to try to decrease running-related injuries and increase running performance. A few stand-out shoes that have sparked a lot of interest in this space include the Hoka One One range and the new Nike Vaporfly/ Alphafly range. Being relatively new to the footwear world, many people are uncertain of their benefits. They can limit movement and reduce pressure through certain areas has the ability to reduce symptoms associated with certain conditions.
When treating painful conditions it is important to have an assessment, diagnosis, and a management plan put in place. At TFC Podiatry, this is something we can help with.
When to use them?
Podiatrists sometimes recommend this shoe style to alleviate certain foot and ankle conditions such as:
By reducing the upwards bending movement at the toes, some joints can settle down nicely. Injury management is an important part of athletic performance. In the context of foot and ankle injury management, rocker bottom shoes can be a useful training tool. In some cases, these shoes can decrease injuries through the problematic tissue. At TFC Podiatry we advise all patients to seek Podiatric advice on footwear and treatment. We tend to find runners with big toe arthritis or painful bunions are good candidates for rocker bottom shoes to help with pain and big toe symptoms.
When not to use rocker bottom shoes?
Designed to help forward movement, the rocker bottom shoe can be great for forward-moving sports such as running and walking.
However, they should be used with some level of caution in regards to sports that involve side-to-side movements, such as Netball and Basketball. The shape of the shoe, combined with more forefoot and midfoot foam, can lead to further instability in side-to-side movements. This can often lead to a higher chance of injury.
As Podiatrists, we tend to prescribe rocker bottom shoes to people with forefoot pathologies as well as other conditions. Although, depending on the patient and their foot, they are not always the best option.
We have included some of our favourite rocker-bottom styles below.
The Hoka Bondi is a soft training shoe with maximum cushioning. They are great for running and walking, as well as day-to-day wear. They have leather styles, suitable for long days on your feet at work. The Bondis are suitable for wear with orthotics and are also available in wide fit.
The New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 also has a high level of cushioning. They are flexible and suitable for slow running or walking sessions. They are suitable for wear with orthotics and are more forgiving than a traditional rocker shoe.
The Hoka Cliftons have a medium level of cushioning, with a greater capacity for speed. They work well as a tempo session trainer, in addition to being suitable for general walking and wear. They are available in regular and wide fit.
The Asics Glideride is one of the more stable rocker bottom shoes, being slightly firmer than the Hoka styles. The stack height (sole foam thickness) is quite high, which make this shoe suitable for orthotic use. They are definitely a running shoe, and not too bad for day-to-day and walking use. These are also available in wide fit.
The Nike Zoomfly is classed as a rocker bottom shoe due to the carbon fibre plate, which creates an entirely stiff sole. This encourages faster toe-off movement, which generally encourages higher tempo/faster pace runs. The Zoomflys are good for racing, or speed training and are not really suitable for walking. They are quite unstable through the ankle due to foam softness and are not suitable for orthotic wear.
If you are experiencing any foot pain or would like a biomechanical assessment, book in to see one of our friendly podiatrists!