Rocker sole shoes have become the latest trend in active walking, comfort footwear. Almost every manufacturer of comfort shoes is entering the marketplace with a rocker sole shoe. With so many options to choose from, and millions spent in advertising these brands, there will no doubt be some confusion about which brand to buy. The purpose of this discussion is to provide a better understanding of the rocker sole footwear category.
Rocker sole shoes have long been known for their therapeutic benefits. They can protect the heels and the balls of the feet from repetitive impact with concrete and hard surfaces. They can be helpful for those suffering from heel and arch pain. They can also be helpful for those suffering from arthritis in the big-toe-joint (hallux rigidus).They promote good posture and can improve circulation. Rocker soles tend to engage core muscles and can improve proprioception. But rocker sole shoes are not for everyone. If you have problems with vertigo or dizziness, for example, a rocker sole shoe may not be appropriate.
There are 2 Subcategories of Rocker Sole Shoes: Unstable and Stable
Unstable rocker shoes are designed to induce instability in all planes of motion. The idea is that if you walk in an unstable shoe, your body is forced to adapt, thus simulating the effect of walking on soft, uneven terrain. Your core muscles are strengthened as your body adapts to the instability of the shoe. Unstable shoes use soft EVA memory foam or pods to create instability. MBT pioneered this concept, but brands like Skechers, Reebok, Joya and Z7 now have offerings in the unstable subcategory. If you have good control over your lower extremities - an unstable shoe may be right for you.
Stable rocker shoes rock straight ahead, but offer much better medial/lateral stability. These shoes are better suited for people that want to enjoy the exercise & postural benefits of a rocker-sole shoe, but need stability and support as well. People that over-pronate or have unstable feet tend to feel much better in a stable rocker-sole shoe. I encourage the use of custom or over-the-counter orthotics in stable rocker-sole shoes to achieve the greatest amount of stability and control. Brands like RYN, Finn Comfort "Finnamic", Mephisto Sano and Cogent all are good examples of stable rocker shoes. Z-CoiL shoes actually function as a stable "double-rocker" shoe. As the coil compresses, it returns energy across a firm orthotic into a forefoot rocker.
Within these 2 subcategories, the degree of the rocker will determine the amount of muscle activation. In the unstable subcategory, the MBT Sport and Chapa models probably provide the greatest muscle activation. The RYN shoes provide the most aggressive rocker in the stable rocker shoe subcategory. People that buy "active walking" shoes to get the most out of their walk will probably favor MBT and RYN. The key decision will be whether they prefer an unstable or stable shoe. Here's a breakdown of unstable and stable rocker sole shoes: