Rocker bottom shoes are a relatively new design in the last 30 years, but have a devoted following, especially amongst those who have decreased mobility in their feet, ankle, and leg joints due to arthritis and missing or non-functioning joints or muscles.
While these shoes cannot heal many of these issues, they can assist in providing an easier range of motion in spite of these conditions and relieving pain that’s being placed on different areas of the foot.
In this article, we looked at seven of the best rocker bottom shoes on the market to decide which one came out as the overall best. Looking at the research, the HOKA brand provides some of the best relief for foot pain with their Bondi 5 Women’s Running Shoe and Arahi Men’s Running Shoe–the technology they’ve developed specifically for their meta-rocker design provides relief and comfort to walkers and runners alike.
What to Look When Buying Rocker Bottom Shoes?
The Podiatric Position on Rockers
- Rocker bottom shoes have come into the public eye more in the last few decades as a sort of “fad” thanks to marketing and claims of health.
- Traditionally, rocker bottom shoes were reserved for those with severe degeneration in the foot or ankle, specifically in the 1st MP Joint. Rocker bottom shoes allowed sufferers of this condition to still operate on their injured feet because the rockers can take the place of correctly functioning sagittal plane rockers.
- However, because of this, rocker bottom shoes on people that don’t technically need them to be able to walk can actually weaken muscles and tendons that are already malfunctioning and can result in a dependence on rocker bottom footwear that isn’t helpful or necessary.
- Rocker bottom shoes have their place for patients, but podiatrists agree that the amount of patients who truly need them exclusively and long-term are few.
The Biomechanics of Rockers
- As mentioned above, rocker bottom shoes function by allowing those with improperly functioning sagittal plane rockers to navigate forward. Historically, these shoes have been reserved for those who were unable to walk efficiently because of injury or operations on their feet.
- These types of rocker bottom shoes, called firm rockers, are made of a tight, rigid sole material that prevents frontal and transverse plane motion.
- They are reserved for those who are the most severe cases, and in those cases can promote motion that was otherwise impossible or restricted.
- With the development of soft rockers by companies like Skechers, the general public began using this same idea, but with a thick and plush insole that collapses and springs with every step when walking or standing.
- However, soft rockers can also be the most unhelpful, as they are the ones that stop the usage of the internal rockers of the foot the most.
- Because of this, podiatrists do not recommend long-term use of soft rockers as a habit in those who otherwise have functional mobility.
- Because of the design of the elevated heel and toe of the rocker bottom shoe, the soft rockers accomplish the muscle toning and strengthening they claim by causing slight instability that forces the muscles of the foot and leg to stabilize the body.
- Studies have found that constant use of rocker bottom shoes can negatively affect limits of stability, and that wearer’s stability won’t improve until many weeks after stopping the use of the shoes.
- The midfoot could come under increased pressure in toe-only rockers, which have been shown to provide the best forefoot relief.
- A running shoe with a rocker placement given to runners with Achilles tendinopathy found some relief in the plantarflexion motion but showed more of a strain and workload placed on the knee joint. You might be like more details about Achilles tendonitis shoe here.
Type of Rocker Bottom Sole
- These types of rocker bottom shoes feature the thickest area of the sole under the ankle, which inhibits the need for motion in the ankle joint when walking.
- On the outside, these shoes feature a more prominent lift in the toe box area, with a slight lift off the ground at the very end of the heel area.
- This design can be helpful for ankle arthritis and ankle fusion cases.
- The MTP joint rocker limits motion through the MP joints, which are the delicate and hard-working hinges that connect the bottom of your toes to the rest of your foot.
- The rocker will lift the entire heel higher, starting in the midsole area, and can be useful for treating pressure or arthritis in the forefoot area.
Metatarsal Head Rocker
- The thickest part of this rocker bottom shoe is located, as the name indicates, right underneath the metatarsal head.
- By providing lift here, the rocker reduces the reaction of each step’s strike to the ground on the ball of the foot.
- These shoes can be used for pain relief in the forefoot area that may include callous and neuromas.
Negative Heel Rocker
- This type of rocker bottom shoe raises the forefoot to encourage the gait to use the heel instead of the toes.
- In this position, the toes will be in constant dorsiflexion or pointing towards the shin, because of a reduced heel.
Double Rocker Absorbs
- The double rocker completely eliminates pressure on the midfoot with two rockers positioned in the forefoot and heel of the shoe.
- This rocker can be helpful for midfoot issues like arthritis and Charcot plantar problems.
Heel to Toe
- This type of rocker has its thickest section of the sole towards the back of the shoe and features a lifting of both the heel and toe sections of the outsole.
- This shoe can be helpful for limiting ankle and midfoot motion, and for addressing issues like arthritis in the ankle or midfoot.
- This type of rocker bottom is recommended for those suffering from hallux limitus and ball-of-foot pain.
- It features a rocker placed just behind the metatarsal heads to reduce pressure under the ball of the foot and reduce motion in the toe joints. Click through to more details about shoes for metatarsalgia now!
- On this type of rocker, there will be a lifting of the toe but a heel that appears flat from the outside.
- The toe only rocker is considered by some to be the most effective as minimizing pressure on the heel.
- It features an elevated heel to promote a range of motion and pressure relief.
Best Rocker Bottom Shoes
|Skechers Women's Shape Ups 2.0 Comfort Stride Fashion Sneaker||Check Price||Trubuck||Rubber sole|
|HOKA ONE ONE Hoka Bondi 5 Women's Running Shoes - SS17||Check Price||Fabric||Rubber sole|
|Skechers Sport Men's Shape Ups XT All Day Comfort Sneaker||Check Price||Leather and Synthetic||Rubber sole|
|New Balance Men's Suede 928v3||Check Price||Synthetic/ Mesh||Rubber sole|
|Exersteps Men's Whirlwind Black Sneakers||Check Price||Leather||Memory foam|
|HOKA ONE ONE Mens Arahi Running Shoe||Check Price||Synthetic||Rubber sole|
|Clarks Women's Wave Trek Sneaker||Check Price||Leather||Rubber sole|
1. Skechers Women’s Shape Ups 2.0 Comfort Stride Fashion Sneaker
The Skechers Women’s Shape Ups 2.0 is extremely popular with a variety of wearers. On the outside, there’s faux leather for style combined with some mesh fabric on the front, tongue, and heel panels for breathability.
The padded collar and tongue, soft fabric liner, and metal top lace eyelet all add to the comfort and durability of the shoe. However, the real magic happens in the foam in both the insole and the midsole. This allows you to use a medical orthotic if necessary while still experiencing the benefits of the foam.
On the bottom, there’s a sculpted rubber outsole which will be durable and provide traction on a variety of surfaces. The midsole offers about 50 mm height from the bottom of the shoe, keeping that area elevated and assisting in a pain-free range of motion.
This model is no longer available from Skechers, so the sizes and colors available through third-party sellers are limited. Some don’t like the memory foam that’s been added to this model, while other wearers find it extremely comfortable.
- These shoes offer foam support in both the insole and the midsole, doubling the comfort and letting it still work even with a different insole insert.
- The metal eyelet on the top lace hole lets you get a tight tie without causing any stretching or ripping of the hole.
- The padded collar and tongue and soft fabric liner contribute to the overall comfort of the shoe.
- The midsole offers a 50mm support height.
- They are lightweight at just a little over a pound.
- These shoes are no longer made by Skechers, so there are limited sizes and colors, and quite expensive.
- Some wearers preferred the previous model of the Shape Ups, which did not feature the double foam support.
- These shoes do not come in wide sizes.
- This model is for medium to high arches–they will not offer the support needed for flat or low arches.
A classic in the world of rocker bottom shoes, these Skechers Shape Ups 2.0 look like a great choice for someone looking for a semi-stylish sneaker that takes the pressure off their metatarsal area or heels while working or walking. Because these are no longer made, it may be difficult, though, to find the size and color needed.
2. HOKA ONE ONE Hoka Bondi 5 Women’s Running Shoes – SS17
From the lesser known HOKA brand is the fifth model in the Bondi line. This shoe offers a lot of the basic running sneaker features–breathable mesh uppers, padded tongue and collar, and a rubber outsole that’s been reinforced in high-wear areas.
However, this shoe is specifically designed with various other features that make it a hit with wearers that have metatarsal issues, plantar fasciitis, and other foot or ankle problems. It features a meta-rocker midsole for low heel-to-toe differential, with a plush EVA material beneath the foot for comfort and cushion. A moderate heel bevel has also been added to assist in a smooth heel-to-toe gait.
These shoes are a huge hit with wearers, both runners and non-runners, and those with or without various foot issues. Many commented that they were quite large seeming, so they are definitely not a low-profile sneaker. But, they are lightweight, run true to size (maybe a bit narrow), and are extremely cushioned and supportive.
They don’t offer a lot of extra arch support, so someone with low or flat arches may find the need for shoes with arch support or additional supportive insert. While many found relief from these shoes right away, the insoles are removable to make room for a custom orthotic.
- These shoes come in medium and wide sizes and a large variety of color choices.
- These shoes fit true to size.
- The cushioning provided in the midsole and insole are supportive and comfortable whether running or working on your feet all day.
- The roomy toe box protected toes from cramping or loss of circulation.
- The insole is removable to make room for a custom orthotic.
- These shoes are quite wide and may feel bulky or clunky to some.
- Those with low arches may not find these supportive enough as is.
- Some wearers preferred the previous model 4’s to the 5’s.
Recommend by podiatrists to many wearers, these shoes are definitely made for those who love running or being active but need some extra assistance when it comes to various foot issues. These would definitely be worth a try if you’re looking for the best rocker bottom shoes on the market!
3. Skechers Sport Men’s Shape Ups XT All Day Comfort Sneaker
Another offering from Skechers, these men’s shoes offer a lot of the same features as the women’s version. The uppers are leather, with some side ventilation and lots of contrast stitching detail. There are a padded tongue and collar, a fabric shoe lining, and cushioned insole.
On the rocker side of things, there’s a two-part soft and firm density midsole for support and cushion. The foam of the midsole also helps absorb shock. The outsole has sculpted rubber designed for traction and forward motion.
Buyers and wearers of these shoes had mostly great things to say about them–for a lot of people, they were “the most comfortable shoes they’ve ever worn” and helped relieve a lot of pain while walking or working on their feet.
The one downside is that these shoes are not made anymore, so they are quite expensive from third-party sellers.
- These shoes come in a variety of four neutral color schemes.
- There are a lot of comfort measures added like a memory foam insole.
- The rocker bottom of the rubber sole can help mobility and pain relief.
- These shoes are no longer made by Skechers, so the sizes are limited and pricing is high.
- Some felt that these ran a little small.
Based on the reviews, these would definitely be worth a try (if you can find them). They have many positive reviews–just try ordering a half size up!
4. New Balance Men’s Suede 928v3
From New Balance comes this design, offered in six colors and–even more impressive–an array of 5 widths from narrow to extra-extra-wide. You’re sure to find a shoe that fits comfortably, no matter your foot width or toe box needs.
On the inside, there are removable polyurethane footbeds, ABZORB midfoot cushioning, and a seamless liner with odor-resistant treatment. On the bottom of the shoe, there’s a rubber outsole that has ROLLBAR and Walking Strike Path technologies for stability and motion control.
The most popular sentiment towards these shoes seems to be that the width choices are great, especially for those who struggle to find comfortable shoes wide enough for their feet. Some wearers had trouble with the quality of the sole and with the insert coming apart on the inside. Others found that they lasted much longer than other shoes of a similar style.
- These shoes come in six neutral colors.
- There are five different widths available.
- Five of the six colors are durable leather on the uppers.
- Reviewers find these shoes very comfortable, especially when wider shoes are needed.
- Some wearers had trouble with the quality of these shoes, especially the soles.
- These do not have specific rocker bottom features on them.
While this company is known for their comfortable shoe offerings, especially for those with larger feet, we can’t quite recommend these as a New Balance rocker bottom shoe, as they don’t have any specific rocker bottom qualities. The Roll Bar technology is more help for pronation or supination issues–it will still help with stability, but for those needing a rocker bottom, you might want to keep looking.
5. Exersteps Men’s Whirlwind Black Sneakers
Exersteps may not be as well-known of a brand, but they definitely have a large following of devoted fans of these straight-forward and affordable rocker bottom shoes.
The uppers are leather and they come in both black and white colors. There’s not a lot of information given about them from the company, except that they have a lightweight midsole, a molded sock, and a non-marking sole.
Reading reviews, however, you’ll find that these shoes are well-loved by their wearers. Many have compared them to a knock-off of the Skechers’ Shape-Ups, but without the foam midsole. While this definitely cuts back on the comfort, the affordable price of these shoes makes a custom orthotic an option to add to the insole.
- These shoes are very affordable and durable.
- According to wearers, these shoes run true to size.
- The uppers are leather.
- Some wearers had issues with the arch support these provided–they may not be a good fit for low arches.
- An additional insert may be needed for padding and comfort.
- There aren’t half sizes available in every size.
If style isn’t too much of a concern, and you’re wanting a basic, durable rocker bottom shoe, these could be a great choice for you. They seem to be very popular with wearers and at such an affordable price, there’s no harm in trying them!
6. HOKA ONE ONE Mens Arahi Running Shoe
After looking at a great pair of women’s running shoes from HOKA, it’s time for the men’s pair. These rocker bottom shoes are popular for their comfort, their colors, and the fact that they come in several widths for runners of all foot sizes.
On the inside, there are several factors contributing to a comfortable but supportive running shoe. The 3D Puff Print frame of the upper combined with the J-Frame technology of the footbed make a lightweight running shoe that provides support and protection without the use of rigid materials.
These shoes feature an early stage meta rocker on the insole, with low heel-to-toe differential to assist in a natural gait cycle. The outsoles are durable rubber, with reinforcements in high-wear areas.
Reviewers have great things to say about these shoes–many appreciate the wide and extra-wide sizes these shoes come in, and find they run true to size. They mentioned that even after trying these following other running shoe brands, they couldn’t believe how cushioned and comfortable these were.
Some found the ventilation didn’t quite work as described, so these may not be a good choice for hotter climates.
- These shoes come in a variety of sizes, 15 colors, and three different widths.
- The 3D Puff Print design of the frame is comfortable and supportive.
- The midsole rocker provides a low heel-to-toe differential, but the shoe looks surprisingly low-profile and stylish.
- Reviewers said these were some of the most comfortable running shoes they’d ever worn.
- These shoes fit true to size in both length and width.
- Some wearers found that these shoes were very hot in warmer climates.
- Reviewers found that these may be a bit tight at first, but would loosen up with wear.
These Arahi running shoes definitely rank high on the list of the best rocker bottom shoes for us–if you’re a man looking for a stylish rocker bottom shoe that gives you the ability to keep running in comfort, these would be a great pair to try!
7. Clarks Women’s Wave Trek Sneaker
For those looking for less of an athletic shoe-look but with the support of a rocker bottom, the Clarks Wave Trek sneaker looks like a good one to try. It comes in four neutral leather colors, in both whole and half sizes, and three different widths from narrow to wide.
These shoes are waterproof, making them a great outdoor shoe in a variety of conditions. They have a rubber sole, an OrthoLite footbed, and a rocker sole. The shaft measures approximately 1.5” from the arch.
A lot of reviewers seemed to be searching for a truly narrow shoe that could support their foot correctly, and many felt like this shoe runs narrow in general, so the narrow width was a good choice for those with very thin feet.
Overall, the general consensus amongst wearers was that these aren’t the most comfortable shoes in the world. They did do a good job in the waterproofing area, but the outsoles weren’t necessarily equipped to handle slippery conditions. Others found a significant lack of support in the midsole and toe box area and just minimal padding under the heel.
- These shoes are made from durable leather and are waterproof.
- They come in half and whole sizes and three different widths.
- These shoes seem like a great choice for those needing a narrower-than-normal rocker bottom shoe.
- These shoes aren’t quite so athletic looking as other rocker bottom shoe choices–would be better for more dressy situations.
- These shoes run a bit narrow, so the wide may not be wide enough for a truly wide foot.
- Many reviewers noted that these shoes just weren’t comfortable–for some, the toe box was unusually large compared to the rest of the shoe; for others, the tongue pressed and rubbed in an uncomfortable way. Some noted that there was a significant lack of padding underneath the foot.
The reviews are mixed on these Clarks sneakers for women. Some found them to be one of the best rocker bottom shoes, especially those who need truly narrow shoes that are waterproof. They may be worth a try if that’s you, but for others–we suggest to keep shopping!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the rocker bottom?
A. A rocker bottom is an outsole on a shoe that features thicker-than-normal support to relieve pressure on various parts of the foot, depending on the need. It typically features a raised, rounded heel and toe area.
Q. What is a meta rocker?
A. This term was coined by the Hoka company and refers to a low heel-to-toe differential and a sculpted outsole to achieve a “rocking chair” fulcrum effect.
The meta rockers are broken into early-stage and late-stage styles, which refer to where the transition zone is placed.
Q. What do rocker bottom shoes do?
A. Rocker bottom shoes create slight instability when standing, throwing off your balance a little, which requires certain parts of the foot, ankle, and leg to kick into gear and compensate for this instability.
They can also function in the place of joints or muscles that are weak or unable to be used, allowing those who have greatly decreased mobility to compensate with the rocker bottom in walking.
Q. Are rocker bottom shoes good for your feet?
A. Podiatrists would say that rocker bottom shoes are not a good idea for daily use in those with mid-range foot issues. Sometimes, they can actually cause more degeneration of weakened muscles that was already present.
A podiatrist would be able to tell you if you were a true candidate for rocker bottom footwear, and what type would be best for you.
Q. Are rocker bottom shoes good for plantar fasciitis?
A. Rocker bottom shoes can help relieve plantar fasciitis pain by lifting the heel and placing more of the pressure of each step on other areas of the foot.
However, with constant use, a rocker bottom shoe could let the plantar tendons become weaker, and dependent on a rocker bottom, instead of finding relief through strengthening and repair.
Q. What shoes are best for arthritic feet?
A. Depending on the area that the arthritis is present, there are different types of rocker bottom shoes that can help in relief.
If it’s present in the midfoot or ankle, a double rocker or heel-to-toe rocker could be the most effective. Find more discussion about shoes for arthritic feet review in-depth.
Q. Can I use rocker bottom shoes if I work on my feet all day?
A. Rocker bottom shoes can provide relief in standing, walking, and running, depending on the type of issues you’re dealing with.
Q. Can I use an orthotic with a rocker bottom shoe?
A. Podiatrists do not recommend using an insert or orthotic with your rocker bottom shoes. These shoes were designed to be used “as is”, and an orthotic could affect the benefits gained through the rocker bottom sole.
Researching to find relief for foot pain can be a lot of work–everyone has an opinion about what’s worked for them and what you should do! If you’re experiencing pain in various parts of your foot while standing, walking, or running, a rocker bottom shoe could be the key in providing some relief by removing pressure on those problem areas and compensating for these areas that may be injured or deteriorating.
Of course, we highly recommend talking to your doctor before doing anything to relieve the pain you’re feeling from your feet and up. Many have found relief from the addition of a rocker bottom shoe to their working, walking, or running shoe closet–and thanks to our research, you can be on your way to less pain in no time!
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Stiffness Effects in Rocker-Soled Shoes: Biomechanical Implications, by PLOS