This past month, I have found myself recommending rocker bottom shoes to my patients for a variety of reasons; most involved forefoot pain caused by calluses, neuroma, metatarsalgia, fat pad atrophy, etc.
Not surprisingly, many patients had no clue what I meant when I told them to try out “rocker bottom shoes” to alleviate some of their pain. In fact, they probably thought I was "off my rocker"! So, I wanted to dedicate this blog post to explaining what exactly is a rocker bottom shoe? What conditions are they used to treat?
I have found that patient education goes a long way. If I can help my patient better understand why I am recommending something to them and how it is supposed to help them, they are more likely to follow my recommendations and advice. This "buy-in" from the patient is crucial to closed-loop communication and providing the best possible care. So hopefully at their next visit, they can say “I’m all cured, doc!”
What are rocker bottom shoes?
Besides just being a fun platform shoe that allows some “rocker” motion, rocker bottom shoes are a thoughtfully designed and well-engineered shoe. Rocker bottom shoes combine comfort with functionality. They typically have a thicker-than-normal sole with a rounded heel. They are also known as a "rocker-sole".
How do rocker bottom shoes work?
The inherent design of a rocker bottom shoe allows it to transfer pressure away from the heel and the ball-of-the-foot.
Types of Rocker Soles
1. Forefoot Rocker - A rocker is placed just behind the metatarsal heads; thus, it is very effective at reducing pressure under the ball-of-the-foot and reducing motion in the toe joints. This is a great solution for people with pain in the ball-of-the-foot (metatarsalgia) or in the big toe due to arthritis (hallux limitus or rigidus).
2. Heel-to-Toe Rocker - This type of rocker sole has its thickest point farther back on the shoe. This effectively limits ankle and midfoot motion, which is suitable for people with ankle or midfoot arthritis. A heel-to-toe rocker also reduces force on the heel when it strikes the ground, as the foot is able to roll faster off the heel and may be an effective option for people with heel pain.
What conditions can rocker bottom shoes be used to treat?
Rocker bottom shoes help re-distribute plantar pressures. Thus, they can be utilized for a variety of conditions such as:
Hallux Limitus/Rigidus (stiff big toe joint)
Metatarsalgia (pain in the ball-of-the-foot)
Freiberg’s Infarction (Avascular Necrosis)
Heel Pain (Plantar Fasciitis)
What are some common brands that carry rocker bottom style shoes?
Check out these common shoe brands and models for a rocker sole.
Hoka One One
New Balance 928
Skechers Shape Ups
Believe it or not, some dress shoes, heels, and boots are made with a rocker sole. You just have to know what you are looking for! Rocker soles can also be prescribed by your physician and may be added to a shoe by an experienced prosthetist or shoemaker.
Do you have experience with rocker bottom shoes? Share your experience with them and favorite brands/models below!
This article is for informative purposes only; it is not intended to be medical advice. Please speak to your doctor to see if rocker bottom shoes would be right for you.