Rocker Running Shoes Drain Energy

Rocker running shoes are supposed to help a runner avoid heel strike, and instead promote a midfoot/forefoot strike landing to avoid injury and save more energy. But how can a shoe do this?

The answer apparently lies in the curved outsole which fosters a strike zone in the midfoot – forefoot region of the foot, and somehow, magically, POOF! you land on your forefoot with little conscious control.  Pretty cool eh?  Not so fast.

Rocker Running Shoes Drain Energy

Rocker Running Shoes Drain Energy

From a business perspective, it is smart to jump on the ‘anti-heel strike’ bandwagon since accumulating research shows that heel strike running is more forceful than forefoot running and design a shoe that prevents a heel strike landing.
Rocker Running Shoes Drain Energy

In essence, a forefoot rocker shoe thinks for us instead of using our own conscious efforts to modify our foot strike.

Do forefoot rocker shoes for forefoot running actually work?

It turns out the benefits of a rocker shoe may diminish over time,  why?  They are too heavy.

More Shoe Technology Equals More Weight

Forefoot striking may be more economical than heel striking in many ways, yet more studies are needed to support this.

Correlational data though, does imply that forefoot striking may be associated with less oxygen expenditure.

Therefore, if a forefoot rocker shoe allows for an automatic forefoot strike landing,  can energy be saved?  The answer is no because the drawback of a rocker shoe is the mass.

Forefoot rocker shoes for forefoot running are heavy and will suck the energy right out of you according to a study by Sobhani et al.

Forefoot running rocker shoes lower economy

  • The study found that runners in the rocker shoe had a whopping 5.6% increase in VO2 max compared to the runners in a minimalist shoe.
  • The researchers think that the drastic difference in shoe construction between the minimalist shoe and the rocker shoe led to dissimilar biomechanics.

Minimalist running shoes are designed to simulate running barefoot and may promote a forefoot strike landing without the added shoe technology.  Minimalist running shoes are simple in their architecture, forcing the foot to work for themselves.

And, perhaps adding more padding under the foot, as in a rocker shoe may result in unfavorable foot strike mechanics as it would be more difficult to sense the ground than if running barefoot.

  • The foot needs a high degree of stimulation from the ground to ensure adequate foot strike moderating behavior.  The best way to maximize sensory input is to limit, or remove padding on the foot.

Don’t rely on a shoe to do the dirty work for you,  learn to modify your foot strike so you can retain the capacity to land on your forefoot in any condition, especially when fatigued.  Besides,  when the shoe does all the work,  the feet become dormant and weak, which may lead to bigger problems.

The Take Home Message

Though, forefoot rocker shoe manufacturers had the right idea by designing a shoe to improve foot strike mechanics,  they went the wrong way by increasing cushioning and motion control constructs which may have negative implications for a runner seeking to improve running performance.

More For You:

Run forefoot because you are faster than you think!


References:

Rixie, JA., Gallo, RA and Silvis, ML. (2012). The barefoot debate: can minimalist shoes reduce running-related injuries? Current Sports Med Rep, 11(3):160-5.

Sobhani et al., (2014). Rocker shoe, minimalist shoe, and standard running shoe: a comparison of running economy.  J Sci Sports Med, 17(3): 312-6.

Bretta Riches

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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