Rocker-bottom shoes aren't a new concept. According to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, podiatrists and other doctors have been recommending them to patients for years to deal with foot and ankle problems. They encourage a natural "roll" to your gait, so you might think they'd make great running shoes. There are some instances when a rocker-bottom shoe can be useful for running, but overall the prominently rounded sole is better for walking.
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These Shoes Were Made for Walking
Shoes with a rocker-bottom help transfer your body weight in a smooth shift from your heels to your toes in the course of normal walking. The motion that your foot goes through during a run is slightly different, with your toes flexing more at the end of each step than during walking. That's why you'll see shoes with the prominent rocker-bottom recommended for walking.
Your Own Natural Rock
If your feet are healthy, they'll naturally move as they're supposed to. In his article "Rocker-bottom Shoes: A Position Paper" for Podiatry.com, Dennis Shavelson, D.P.M. says that your feet have their own internal rockers, but long-term use of rocker-bottom shoes will make those natural rockers shut down and quit working on their own. If arthritis or some other condition has stopped your feet from working properly, a rocker-bottom shoe can be useful for running. If you're unable to flex your foot at the toes, running in rocker-bottom shoes will roll your foot through the mechanics of a step without bending your metatarsal-tarsal joints and causing pain when you push off for the next step.
Shoe manufacturers are targeting the running-shoe market with rocker-bottom shoes that don't have such a pronounced bump in the mid-foot section of the sole. These shoes' soles are flexible and lightweight with enough of a rocker-bottom to encourage an effortless roll from heel-strike to point of push off. They have the features that the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society recommend in a running shoe, such as cushioning for shock absorption, deep treads and durable gripping power on the soles.
Recommended Running Shoes
Although a sole with a less obvious rocker can be useful for running, they're not usually recognized as a top running shoe. On the Sneaker Report's list of the best running shoes of 2013, not one is a rocker-bottom. But every runner's feet are different. Even though the top running shoes typically have flat soles, you have to go with the ones that are most comfortable for you. You could end up opting for a rocker-bottom shoe if you find that it provides the support and comfort you need.