In recent years, rocker sole shoes have been touted as an effective tool for reducing low back pain (LBP). But these claims have been coming from manufacturers and persistent advertisers, with no solid scientific evidence to support them. A research team led by Sian MacRae from the physiotherapy department of King´s College London has put those claims to the test in a randomised clinical trial. According to the team´s report published in the Spine journal, rocker sole shoes provide no more benefits than regular flat sole footwear.
The researchers selected 115 people suffering from chronic LBP, with 58 of them told to wear rocker sole shoes for at least two hours daily while walking or standing. The rest were given the same instruction but they wore normal shoes. Assessment took place at six weeks, six months and one year through the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ). The subjects were also required to show up once a week in their assigned footwear to participate in an exercise and education programme.
At the main outcome point (one year), the researchers had data from 44 members of the rocker sole group and 49 of the other group. The respective mean RMDQ reduction was estimated at -3.1 and -4.4, with a higher negative value indicating a greater reduction in disability. The study also established that flat sole shoes were associated with a greater reduction in LBP pain made worse by standing and walking. The results led the researchers to conclude that rocker sole shoes provided no greater benefits when it came to managing disability and pain in chronic LBP sufferers.