I am sure that you have heard about the various shoe trends that have come out over the years, from the rocker bottom shoes to the minimalist and toe shoes. But are these different fads good for you or are they harming your body?
Let me start by saying that every person is different. People are built and conditioned in different ways throughout their lives. As I’m sure you have noticed, some of the most amazing runners in the world are from Kenya, but if you look at the form used by some of these athletes, it is not necessarily the textbook definition of efficient or “perfect”. So why does it work for them? Their form works because they are built and conditioned for it to work. If you grew up in Kenya with a completely different physical environment and job tasks, then you may be conditioned the same as those athletes. If, however, you grew up in “big city USA” with the constant force of concrete to run and work on, then you likely will have very different body mechanics than the Kenyan athlete. With that being said, even individuals who grew up in the same environment can have different foot mechanics. One person may have a very rigid foot while another person has a very mobile foot or even a flat foot. These differences can also effect which shoe choice is the best for you.
Obviously, not everyone is looking for a “running shoe.” Some of you may just be looking for a fitness shoe or simply a shoe for daily use. A variety of shoes have been manufactured for these reasons. Let’s start by discussing rocker bottom shoes, also referred to as “toning shoes”.
These shoes were initially intended as a specialty shoe that podiatrists would prescribe for various ankle and foot problems, issues with walking, diabetes, or deformities. Now they have been mass produced for all to use. The big marketing campaign for these shoes is based on the claim that they help to tone the body and improve calorie burning simply by wearing them regularly. So is this claim accurate? The unstable nature of this footwear does cause the wearer to activate muscle that may not have regularly been activated by simple stance positions. They can also assist with training balance stability by challenging balance due to their unstable base, thus causing the wearer to have to balance more efficiently in order to stay steady. Posture may also be assisted due to the wearer staying more upright in order to maintain balance.
If all of this is true, then what’s the down side? One down side is that the claim that these shoes improve muscle tone and burn calories may not be accurate. More research is needed to substantiate these claims, but currently conflicting evidence is present; meaning that there are studies that show positive benefits and others that show no difference than other footwear. Another negative is that these shoes cause greater instability. Yes, they could cause the wearers to challenge and improve their balance; but if a person does not have good balance to start with, then that person will be more prone to fall in an unstable shoe.
The moral of the story is that rocker bottom shoe may be beneficial for some, but not for all. Our next blog will discuss toe shoes.