We have all seen those shoes that have a curved sole that looks like the bottom of a rocking chair. Shoe companies often claim that these special shoes will exercise muscles in your calves, thighs, and glutes more intensely than other athletic shoes. What is the real story, and what evidence is out there?
An article in the New York Times discusses the various studies conducted in relation to rocker shoes. In summary, they range from studies financed by the shoe companies themselves with only five subjects, to more unbiased studies with slightly larger subject groups and not financed by shoe companies.
According to the most reliable of the studies, it seems that these toning shoes do not burn fat faster than regular shoes. The shoes do at first activate some smaller, unused muscles in the feet and ankles that help with stability and balance, but they quickly adjust to the new shape of the shoes. One study which measured the muscle activity and oxygen consumption of the subjects reported no significant difference in muscle usage or oxygen intake.
One doctor did say, however, that some patients love the way the shoes feel, and that if that motivates people to get out of the house and stay active, then these shoes are a good thing.