Shaper Shoes… Real Deal or Gimmick?

Over the past few weeks I have received several questions from my readers about the shaper shoe we’ve seen touted by many of the name brand athletic shoe designers.  You know those rounded bottomed shoes that look like only the center portion of the shoe is touching the ground when you stand and allow you to rock back and forth like you’re standing on a rocking chair.  The various manufacturers claim that these shoes may help the wearer to burn calories, lift the buttocks and help one get into shape.  Many avid runners, athletes and lay persons have shown hopeful skepticism toward these dramatic claims and who can blame them.  Do these wacky looking shoes really do what they say they will or is it just another gimmick?

I took a closer look at these funky looking shoes by researching the technology behind their design and arrived at a few of my own conclusions.  I will say that the concept behind these curved bottom shoes reaches far beyond just a new trend in athletic footwear fashion.

Generally speaking athletic shoe manufacturers attempt to design a shoe to provide both comfort and stability for the wearer which really makes good sense.  If you are an athlete or runner you could sure benefit from the highest degree of stability possible from your footwear.  However the technology behind the shaper design takes a different path on the subject.  The goal is to reduce the stability of the shoe.  That’s correct!  The attempt was to make the shoe less stable for the wearer during the walking and running process.  The lack in shoe stability will require additional muscle contraction and control in the calf, ankle and foot.

This reminds me of the exercise I spoke of in one of my earlier writings where I instructed the participant to practice standing on one foot for thirty seconds and alternate feet for a total of five sets.  That exercise was designed to enhance the strength of the leg and ankle muscles thereby creating healthier feet, legs and better balance.  The shaper technology certainly creates a situation where the wearer must use accessory muscles that they would typically not use in the standard athletic shoe.

I noticed that during the gait cycle with these shapers that one’s calf muscles in particular receive an extra workout above and beyond what standard shoes provide.  Because of the rounded toe portion, as the wearer moves through the toe-off phase of the gait cycle the foot assimilates a calf-raise type movement.

As a doctor that specializes in foot and lower extremity conditions I was quite impressed by the shaper shoe concept.  I can’t really comment much about their ability to provide the wearer a lift in the buttock region as some would claim, but as far as improving balance, and overall health of the legs and feet I think shapers can be an asset in the toolbox of the health conscious consumer.  However I will also add that although these shaper shoes may enhance one’s workout they are by no means a replacement for other forms of exercise.

© Robert J. Fenell, D.C.

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