Monday, October 5, 2015

Skechers Shape-Ups and the Rothbarts Foot: An Ankle Injury Waiting To Happen

Skechers Shape-ups lawsuit 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.
walker-bottom shoe and walker-botttom cast
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:
If Your Shoes Could Talk, What Would They Say?   
Worn Out Or Not – More About the Heels Of Your Shoes

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.
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64 Responses to “Skechers Shape-Ups and the Rothbarts Foot: An Ankle Injury Waiting To Happen”
  1. Margaret says:

    I found this site whilst trying to find online retailer to replace my Skecher's Shapeups!!
    I am now aged 77 and 10 years ago had severe pain on top of both feet, making walking very difficult. I discovered MBT's and have worn rocker bottom shoes ever since. MBT, Chung Shi, Scholls, and Skechers.
    They have enabled me to keep walking daily – even went on an intense muddy and rocky walking holiday for a week. Never had a fall or strained ankle.
    I cannot speak too highly of this type of shoe – without it I was heading for a mobility scooter!! I have referred them to several friends, Good job we are all different.

  2. Rothbart says:

    Dear Margaret,

    If your feet are structurally normal (e.g., they do not twist as you walk), you can wear rockerbottom shoes comfortably.

    with regards,
    Professor Rothbart

  3. cranbud says:

    The rocker shoes were prescribed by my doctor for an arthritic toe. They help me tremendously! Two years prior, they helped with numbness in my leg due to damaged nerves in my back. Clearly, in all cases, rocker shoes are not bad. For some, they are a life saver!

  4. Rothbart says:

    You are correct. Rockerbottom shoes do not adversely effect everyone. If you were fortunate enough to have been born with a structurally normal foot, your chances of injury, from wearing rockerbottom shoes, are much less then if you were born with a structurally unsound foot (e.g., the Rothbarts Foot or the Preclinical Clubfoot Deformity).

    Professor Rothbart

  5. We've heard a lot of mixed reviews about these shoes- people seem to be polarized with their experiences. However many of our clients have experienced severe injuries caused by strain and falls produced by the rocker bottom. One of our clients fell and maintained a very serious head injury. Others have broken hips, sprained ankles etc.
    We believe that those who are elderly or who have poor balance and are in poor physical health seem to have a lot more issues than their smaller, younger counterparts.

  6. Rothbart says:

    Dear Estey,

    You are absolutely correct. People are polarized regarding their experiences with the rocker bottom shoes.

    The key issue is the foot structure the person was born with. If he/she was fortunate enough to be born with a structurally stable foot (e.g., non twisting/normal pronation), that person will be able to wear the rocker bottom shoe with far less potential for injury that someone born with a structurally unstable foot (e.g., twisting/abnormally pronating).

    Two of the most common and structurally unstable foot structures are the PreClinical Clubfoot Deformity and the Rothbarts Foot. If you were born with one of these foot structures, you are at higher risk for developing joint or muscle pathology when you wear the rocker bottom shoes.

    with regards,
    Professor Rothbart

  7. Carl Pedersen says:

    I was told by my surgeon to get rocker bottom shoes. I recently have had ankle fusion surgery and he said the bottom would do for my foot what I can’t do when I walk, since I have no ankle movement. After reading all these things negative about the shoes (hip problems, back problems, etc.) I am wondering if it’s worth the risk.

  8. Rothbart says:

    Dear Carl,

    Rocker bottom shoes are an excellent choice for specific foot and ankle conditions. An ankle fusion is one of those conditions.

    Having said that, there is one caveat: If you have either a PreClinical Clubfoot Deformity or Rothbarts Foot, rocker bottom shoes should never be worn.

    with regards,
    Professor Rothbart

  9. Carl Pedersen says:

    Thank you for answering my question. I have started wearing the rocker bottom shoes, and I do feel that they are helping. My new concern is that, before the fusion, I had arthritis so bad that I literally walked on the side of my foot (outside). The surgeon said he corrected the deformity that resulted from that, but when I walk, I feel like I am still walking with my foot turned out. When I look, it isn’t apparent. I’m thinking it’s in my mind since I walked like that for many years. By looking, will my surgeon be able to tell if I have Rothart’s foot the next time I see him, or are there tests that have to be taken.

  10. Rothbart says:

    Dear Carl,

    There are specific tests that can be run by your surgeon to determine if you have the Rothbarts Foot or not (See Three Minute Screening for Rothbarts Foot).

    If you do have the Rothbarts Foot, rockerbottom shoes will create the type of symptoms you have described.

    with regards,
    Professor Rothbart

  11. Shanna Anderson says:

    I bought one pair of these and every single time I wore them I would have extreme pain running along the top of my foot up through my ankle. At first I thought it was from them not being broken in, but it was bad enough that after wearing them for a while I quit. It wasn’t worth the pain. Glad to know it wasn’t all in my head!

  12. Rothbart says:

    Dear Shanna,

    Welcome to the club! You are not alone in your experiences with the Skechers Shape Up shoes.

    Professor Rothbart


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