Are Rocker Shoes better than other trainers at reducing back pain in patients who already have low back pain?

A study funded by a company who make rocker shoes has found that they are generally no better than wearing normal trainers, and in some cases are worse than wearing flat sports shoes in patients who have low back pain.

MBT stands for Masai Barefoot Technology and the shoes have a curved ‘rocker’ sole which is said to mimic the effect of walking without footwear on soft sand or grass. Manufacturers have previously said the shoes’ health benefits include improving balance and increasing muscle activity. The unstable curved sole was purported to positively influence mechanisms associated with chronic lower back pain, such as poor balance, sub-standard muscle function and poor posture.

Almost two decades after they were launched in 1996, scientists have discovered that they appear no better for people with lower back pain than traditional sports trainers.

A group of physiotherapists from Kings college London, found that patients with low back pain experienced no difference in pain levels after a year of wearing either Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT) rocker shoes, or normal, good quality, running shoes. 115 people with chronic low back pain took part in the study. Half were given MBT rocker shoes, half were given flat shoes, and all were asked to wear the shoes for two hours every day, including during an initial four-week exercise plan.

The researchers used the Roland Morris Disability Questionnaire and pain assessments in the study. They asked the patients to report their disability and pain levels at six weeks, six months and one year.

Among the overall group, patients wearing the rocker soles reported a fall of 3.1 on the disability scale, and those with flat soles fell by 4.4 after a year.

Food for thought.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from low back pain and would like to have a physiotherapy assessment for suitability of physiotherapy treatment, contact us here.

Effectiveness of Rocker Sole Shoes in the Management of Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomised Clinical Trial, MacRae, C S et al, Spine., POST ACCEPTANCE, 7 August 2013.