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Shoes for Better Balance

You may have seen ads lately for shoes that have rocker bottoms or curved soles. Currently there are three brands out there:
  • Skechers Shape-Ups
  • Reebok EasyTones
  • MBT
The makers of these shoes all claim various health benefits from wearing their shoes, specifically strength and balance improvements. I can imagine there would be small strength improvements just because walking in these shoes is a very different motion to the body, and would results in certain muscles getting used differently than walking in normal shoes.

Those muscles would have to get stronger quickly to deal with their new responsibilities during the walking motion. However, once your body adapts to that motion and those muscles are strengthened, I do not think there would be much additional benefit in the strength department.

What About Balance?

The balance issue interests me more, though. These shoes are all rounded on the bottom instead of flat like a normal shoe, so there will be an increased amount of instability when standing or walking.

The sensation of instability means that your sense of balance will be working overtime to make sure you stay upright. So I would have to conclude that these shoes do indeed work your balance.

From what I can tell, the Skechers and MBTs have a “rocker sole” which makes them wobble in one plane of motion from front to back. The Reeboks are different in that they have small air-filled circles in the heel and ball of the foot areas that you are standing one. The circular nature of those pads means that in addition to wobbling forward and backwards, you can also wobble sideways to some degree.

What these companies have done is taken a balance device that you would see at a fitness center, shrunk it, and attached it to the bottom of a shoe. In fact, Reebok says that their shoe was specifically inspired by the inflatable balance discs that people stand on at the gym to work their balance.

Now I certainly do not see these shoes as a silver bullet for balance problems. I think it is still important for people to spend time daily doing a variety of balance exercises that challenge their balance in different ways. But I do think these shoes can be beneficial, and more and more people are getting them.

Safety

One last thing to mention is that you need to be careful because as I mentioned, these shoes will make you less stable when wearing them. If your balance is already terrible, it would not be smart to wear something that makes you even more unstable because it would increase your risk falling.

Also, you should not wear them in situations where you need extra stability, like walking in the snow or ice. Stick with your normal shoes for those situations.


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