Summaries and Links to Clinical Studies of Rocker-Bottom Shoes Including Shape-ups

Rocker-bottom shoes have been sold in the U.S. for many years and have been the subject of numerous research projects with at least 19 reports published in peer-reviewed clinical and sports medicine journals. Here are links to a selection of study citations and summaries on rocker-bottom shoes. We will continue to add to this list.

NOTE: The researchers who have published studies on rocker-bottom shoes include the orthopedic surgeon who co-founded the Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine Traumatology in Switzerland; the Chief Physician and Professor of Neuro-Orthopedics at University Children’s Hospital, Basel, Switzerland; a senior researcher in University Children's Hospital, Basel’s Laboratory for Movement Analysis, which was the first clinical gait lab in Europe specializing in clinical and research analysis of complex movement disorders; the head of the Biomechanics Department at the Swiss Olympic Medical Center; the Director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Calgary; the Senior Sport Science Officer and the Senior Researcher in Biomechanics at Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Sport and Exercise Science (CSES), Sheffield, UK.

(Click image to read study)

This September 2009 study of Shape-ups conducted at Juntendo University in Japan demonstrated statistically significant changes in muscle activity patterns and increased muscle activity in the lower limb muscle group (major hamstring, calf muscles, and front shin muscles) and gluteus maximus in adult men wearing Shape-ups who were tested walking at various speeds. Each participant was tested in both Shape-ups and a flat-soled 'stable' shoe. This 2009 controlled clinical study by the Director of Research at one of the nation’s leading programs for musculoskeletal care, education and research, measured a significantly greater center of pressure motion (51 percent) while standing in the Shape-ups, compared to standing in a conventional (flat bottom) shoe, and found that EMG activity in muscles, such as the hamstring and shin muscles, increased when participants wore Shape-ups. The study also reported increased EMG activity in the calf muscle when walking in Shape-ups. A study at the Laboratory for Gait Analysis, Children’s University Hospital, Basel, Switzerland, which was published in Clinical Biomechanics in 2006, found rocker-bottom shoe wearers experienced increased muscle activity in the calf and shin muscles while walking in rocker-bottom shoes, compared to flat-bottom shoe wearers. The study analyzed the gaits of 12 subjects after a one-hour instruction session, followed by a training period of four weeks, during which subjects were asked to wear the rocker bottom shoes as much as possible. Participants were tested walking barefoot, with normal shoes and with rocker-bottom shoes.  Rocker bottom shoe wearers had significantly increased muscle activity in the front shin while standing, when compared to those wearing flat bottom shoes.  Although not statistically significant, the study also showed trends in increased muscle activation for the calf muscle, quadriceps, and buttocks while standing in rocker bottom shoes.  The findings suggest that rocker bottom shoes “may be advantageous for the training” of certain muscles.  The study also demonstrates that rocker bottom shoes provide muscular benefits even while the wearer is standing.
"The Effect of Shoe Sole Shapes on Muscle Activity, Amount and Patterns"

This September 2009 study of Shape-ups conducted at Juntendo University in Japan demonstrated statistically significant changes in muscle activity patterns and increased muscle activity in the lower limb muscle group (major hamstring, calf muscles, and front shin muscles) and gluteus maximus in adult men wearing Shape-ups who were tested walking at various speeds. Each participant was tested in both Shape-ups and a flat-soled "stable" shoe.
"Testing of Skechers Shape-ups Shoe"

This 2009 controlled clinical study by the Director of Research at one of the nation’s leading programs for musculoskeletal care, education and research, measured a significantly greater center of pressure motion (51 percent) while standing in the Shape-ups, compared to standing in a conventional (flat bottom) shoe, and found that EMG activity in muscles, such as the hamstring and shin muscles, increased when participants wore Shape-ups. The study also reported increased EMG activity in the calf muscle when walking in Shape-ups.
"Changes in Gait and EMG When Walking with the Masai Barefoot Technique"

A study at the Laboratory for Gait Analysis, Children’s University Hospital, Basel, Switzerland, which was published in Clinical Biomechanics in 2006, found rocker-bottom shoe wearers experienced increased muscle activity in the calf and shin muscles while walking in rocker-bottom shoes, compared to flat-bottom shoe wearers. The study analyzed the gaits of 12 subjects after a one-hour instruction session, followed by a training period of four weeks, during which subjects were asked to wear the rocker bottom shoes as much as possible. Participants were tested walking barefoot, with normal shoes and with rocker-bottom shoes.
"Effect of an Unstable Shoe Construction on Lower Extremity Gait Characteristics"

Rocker bottom shoe wearers had significantly increased muscle activity in the front shin while standing, when compared to those wearing flat bottom shoes. Although not statistically significant, the study also showed trends in increased muscle activation for the calf muscle, quadriceps, and buttocks while standing in rocker bottom shoes. The findings suggest that rocker bottom shoes “may be advantageous for the training” of certain muscles. The study also demonstrates that rocker bottom shoes provide muscular benefits even while the wearer is standing.
The 2004 study at Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Sport and Exercise Science in the U.K. found increased activity of the leg muscles and diminished forward lean of the trunk. In addition, the study found decreased muscle activity in the low back for MBT wearers, suggesting reduced lower back strain. A 2007 study at the Rennbahn Practice Clinic for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at the Swiss Olympic Medical Center found statistically significant increases in calf muscle and side leg muscle strength for the rocker bottom shoe group compared to a control group after three months of therapy following an initial four week period of use. The study involved four weeks of treatment and three months of post-therapy, during which the 15-person study group used the rocker bottom shoe as often as possible in every day life and the 15-person control group carried out the established therapeutic regime barefoot. This study of 123 subjects was conducted at the University of Calgary’s Human Performance Laboratory and was published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (Official Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine). It showed wearers of rocker bottom shoes improved their standing balance ability over a 12 week period, while wearers of normal walking shoes experienced no improvement in their balance ability. A 2010 study of 15 ankle arthrodesis patients and 18 control subjects found that metabolic energy cost was higher in patients and control subjects wearing the rocker-bottom shoes compared to the same patients and control subjects walking with bare feet or in normal walking shoes. For the control group (normal population), the increased metabolic cost of walking was approximately 12 percent higher in the rocker bottom shoes, compared to the flat-bottom shoes.  The study was published in Clinical Biomechanics, a peer-reviewed journal, and conducted by researchers at the Research Institute MOVE, Faculty of Human Movement Sciences, VU University, Amsterdam; the Orthopedic Research Center Amsterdam, and Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Slotervaart Hospital, Amsterdam.
"Changes in gait characteristics of a normal, healthy population due to an unstable shoe construction"

The 2004 study at Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Sport and Exercise Science in the U.K. found increased activity of the leg muscles and diminished forward lean of the trunk. . In addition, the study found decreased muscle activity in the low back for MBT wearers, suggesting reduced lower back strain.
"MBT as Therapeutic Shoe for Ankle Instabilities"

A 2007 study at the Rennbahn Practice Clinic for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at the Swiss Olympic Medical Center found statistically significant increases in calf muscle and side leg muscle strength for the rocker bottom shoe group compared to a control group after three months of therapy following an initial four week period of use. The study involved four weeks of treatment and three months of post-therapy, during which the 15-person study group used the rocker bottom shoe as often as possible in every day life and the 15-person control group carried out the established therapeutic regime barefoot.
"Unstable shoe construction and reduction of pain in osteoarthritis patients"

This study of 123 subjects was conducted at the University of Calgary’s Human Performance Laboratory and was published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (Official Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine). It showed wearers of rocker bottom shoes improved their standing balance ability over a 12 week period, while wearers of normal walking shoes experienced no improvement in their balance ability.
"Metabolic cost and mechanical work during walking after tibiotalar arthrodesis and the influence of footwear"

A 2010 study of 15 ankle arthrodesis patients and 18 control subjects found that metabolic energy cost was higher in patients and control subjects wearing the rocker-bottom shoes compared to the same patients and control subjects walking with bare feet or in normal walking shoes. For the control group (normal population), the increased metabolic cost of walking was approximately 12 percent higher in the rocker bottom shoes, compared to the flat-bottom shoes. The study was published in Clinical Biomechanics, a peer-reviewed journal, and conducted by researchers at the Research Institute MOVE, Faculty of Human Movement Sciences, VU University, Amsterdam; the Orthopedic Research Center Amsterdam, and Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Slotervaart Hospital, Amsterdam.