“Shoes with curved unstable soles are no better than traditional trainers for reducing lower back pain,” BBC News reports, after a small but well-designed study found no significant benefit in people wearing “rocker sole” shoes.
The study involved 115 adults with chronic lower back pain who were randomised into two groups: rocker sole trainers or normal trainers. They were asked to wear these trainers for at least two hours a day over the course of a year. They were also asked to exercise once a week for four weeks and wear their trainers to these sessions.
The good news was that in all groups back pain improved to some degree. However, the rocker sole-style footwear was no better (or no worse) than flat sole trainers in reducing disability or pain scores.
For a number of measures the rockers actually fared worse than their flat sole counterparts, including satisfaction with the trainers and a clinically important reduction in self-reported disability.
The study had many strengths, including its randomised design and realistic treatment conditions, which involved prescribing shoes plus exercise rather than just shoes.
However, a general limitation of the study is that it only recruited people with chronic lower back pain, so the effect of the rocker shoes on other musculoskeletal conditions was not tested.
Larger studies assessing pain and disability over a longer period of time would be able to confirm or refute these findings, but initially – and in light of the strengths mentioned above – they appear reliable.
Where did the story come from?
The study was carried out by researchers from UK-based hospitals and universities in collaboration with international partners.
It was funded by Masai GB Ltd, a footwear manufacturer specialising in rocker sole ranges. Because of the largely neutral findings of the study, it is clear the funders had no influence on the study design or reporting.
The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal, Spine. The BBC coverage of the study was balanced and factually accurate.
What kind of research was this?
This was a multicentre, assessor-blind randomised control trial comparing the effectiveness of rocker sole footwear with traditional flat sole footwear for people with chronic lower back pain.
The researchers reported that over the past decade, persistent advertising has claimed that footwear constructed with a rocker sole will reduce lower back pain. Shoes with an unstable curved sole are often marketed as being able to help increase muscle activity, reduce lower back pain and improve posture and balance when walking and standing.
However, as the authors noted, there is no robust evidence to support these claims. The present study aimed to provide robust evidence on whether rocker sole shoes helped lower back pain.
A randomised control trial is the best study design for comparing the effectiveness of two treatments, such as two different types of footwear that could be recommended as part of lower back pain management.
It is not possible for such a trial to be double blind, as participants would know what shoes they were wearing, but the fact that the assessors were blind to treatment allocation (single blind) is a strength….
Source: Read More at NHS