Skechers Shape-Ups and the Rothbarts Foot: An Ankle Injury Waiting To Happen
Recently Skechers Shape Ups rocker bottom shoes have been in the news
. Skechers is facing a federal class action lawsuit over allegedly exaggerating the health benefits of their Skechers Shape Up shoes and reaping millions of dollars of profit through misleading marketing claims.
One such claim for Skechers Shape Ups is that because they automatically exercise your pelvic and leg muscles as you walk, using them is a simple way to stay in shape, and “you can get in shape without ever setting foot in a gym”.
In fact, there are many ways to get in shape without going to the gym. Walking, whether barefooted, in standard shoes, or in rocker bottoms will tone the muscles to varying degrees.
But, far more important than the quality of workout, is the impact that rocker bottoms have on your feet and ankles.
A Good Idea Gone Bad
The concept of rocker bottom footwear began in the 1970s, when doctors placed their patients with a broken foot or leg in a leg cast with a rocker bottom platform, similar to the one shown in the photo below. This platform made it easier for them to walk within the confines of a leg cast. Because the foot, ankle and leg were supported in the cast; biomechanical issues (such as potentially twisting the ankles) were not an issue.
A false assumption was made that if the rocker bottom works well in a cast, then it would also work well in a shoe. In the 1990s, the first rocker bottom shoe was marketed to the public and since that time many brands, such as Skechers Shape Ups have become popular.
Are rocker bottoms really as beneficial as they claim?
Normally, you use your foot and leg muscles to move the weight of your body from your heel to your toe as you walk. But with rocker bottom shoes (such as Skechers Shape Ups), the rolling action is done for you, reducing the need to use your muscles and making it easier to walk. At first thought, this sounds good; but the result is that your foot and leg muscles (due to decreased use) get weaker the longer you use the shoes.
Do a self test- First walk in your rocker bottoms, paying attention to how hard you are using your leg and foot muscles. Then walk barefooted in soft sand. Which gives your muscles the better workout?
Can they potentially cause ankle injuries?
A 2009 study conducted by researchers Albright B.C. & Woodhull-Smith (2009) suggested that rocker bottom shoes may increase the risk of falls. I believe the reason for this is because (unlike rocker bottom leg casts) there is no structural support of the ankles and because the muscles in the leg and feet are not being optimally used, they become weaker and prone to injury.
If you have a Rothbarts Foot or PreClinical Clubfoot Deformity, wearing Skechers Shape Ups or any rocker bottom shoes can be disastrous:
Both the Rothbarts Foot and PreClinical Clubfoot Deformity create a twisting motion in the ankle when you walk, making the ankle joint especially vulnerable to sprains. If you have one of these two common, abnormal foot structures and you wear rocker bottoms, the combination of using less muscular activity in the foot and leg muscles, plus the inherent ankle instability seen in the above two foot structures, can lead to ankle injuries.
Rocking in your shoes may seem like a fun and easy way to get fit. But a safer and even simpler way to get in shape ‘without setting foot in a gym’ is by walking barefoot in soft sand; which strengthens your ankles, tones your entire body, is natural, fun and free.
Albright B.C. & Woodhull-Smith W.M. (March 2009). “Rocker bottom soles alter the postural response to backward translation during stance.” Gait & Posture
For more information on how the quality of your shoes impacts your health, read:
Professor/Dr. Brian A. Rothbart
Chronic Pain Elimination Specialist
Discovered the Rothbarts Foot Structure and the PreClinical Clubfoot Deformity
Developer of Rothbart Proprioceptive Therapy
Inventor and Designer of Rothbart Proprioceptive Insoles
Founder of International Academy of Rothbart Proprioceptive Therapy
Author of Forever Free From Chronic Pain
As you learn more about my innovative therapy, you may find that addressing and effectively treating your foot structure may be the missing link to ending your long time battle with unrelenting muscle and joint pain.
If you would like to make an appointment with me to see if I can help you to permanently eliminate your low back pain, go to: Schedule a Consultation.
UPDATE: On February 16, 2011, ABC Action News and Good Morning America are reporting
that an Ohio woman represented by attorney Ronald Edward Johnson Jr. is suing
the company that produces Skechers Shape-Ups. She states that the shoes, which she wore for several months, caused her to develop stress fractures in both hips, even though she has the bone density of a young woman.
Holly Ward, a waitress who spends her work days on her feet, says she was attracted to the Skechers by ads claiming the shoes would reduce pain and help you get in shape.
But as Ward told interviewers on Good Morning America, "The extended use of these shoes injured me catastrophically. The femoral bone is the strongest bone in the human body and I fractured not one but two of them without being in a car crash or any traumatic incident."
Ms. Ward now has pins in both hips and is eduring painful physical therapy.
ABC Action News states that it "spoke to half a dozen orthopedists and most were skeptical that shoes alone could cause stress fractures." What those specialists may have overlooked is the possibility that Ms. Ward has an as-yet-undiagnosed abnormal foot structure that would make potentially make wearing Skechers Shape-Ups or any similar athletic shoes extremely dangerous for her. I have contacted Ms. Ward's attorney to offer information on this issue and will watch this case with great interest. You can see more information on this lawsuit at the law firm's blog here.
UPDATE: In May 2012 the court ordered the makers of Skechers Shape-Ups to pay $40 million to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission, which says Skechers made deceptive claims about the rocker-bottom shoes. In the Skechers settlement, the FTC said the company falsely represented that clinical studies supported the claims of muscle toning and weight loss.
The settlement also says the company made similar claims about its Resistance Runner, Toners and Tone-up shoes. Customers who purchased any of the shoes listed in the settlement are eligible for refunds.
Other shoe companies have also come under fire from the FTC for making false claims. Last year, consumers who purchased Reebok's EasyTone and RunTone shoes were given refunds after the company claimed they would strengthen muscles.
The Skechers shoes were endorsed by paid celebrities like Kim Kardashian and fitness model Brooke Burke
while medical doctors and fitness trainers like Kevin Valluzzi warned that the shoes could cause serious injury. In an interview, Valuzzi stated
that when he first saw advertisements for Skechers, he couldn't believe such shoes were allowed on the market and he was quick to denounce them to his clients.