Veterans Affairs

Rocker shoes for foot and ankle pain

Development kit allows orthotists and other medical professionals to build high quality, customer rocker shoes quickly and easily

Medical & Biotechnology

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have recently invented a system to produce rocker shoes for specific conditions in a systematic and repeatable fashion. The patented technology is available via patent license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

Rocker modifications to shoes are commonly prescribed for treatment of numerous foot and ankle problems including redistribution of plantar pressures away from bony prominences of the foot or reduction of foot and ankle movements. Currently, the prescriptions are based primarily on theory and clinical experience, with limited science and validation – rocker shoe design is a clinical art, with minimal guidelines for clinicians to follow for specific shoe designs.

Now, VA researchers have developed Rocker shoe production kits for different prescribed ankle angular motion, so that the medical professional can choose the kit which has the appropriate rocker profile for a specific patient. The kits include a range of different rocker shoe profiles so that an appropriate kit can be selected for a patient based on height and the desired rocker motion.

From the kit, the rocker shoe is designed to reduce ankle motion during walking, particularly during the part of a walking gait cycle when forces on the leg are highest. This is during the single-limb support portion of a walking step when the foot engages the ground at the heel and rocks onto the toes.

A subject’s ankle range of motion (ROM) during single-limb stance was reduced from 8 deg (solid line) to 2 deg (dashed line) when wearing the rocker shoes. This represents a 75% reduction in ankle ROM when compressive loads are the highest during walking.

The custom design from the kit can be easily and consistently fabricated by an orthotist or shoe manufacturer given the appropriate dimensions of the patient, resulting in a design that is light-weight, durable, and cosmetically appealing.

The kits include a rocker piece, intermediate layer and tread material for both right and left shoes. In addition, shoe uppers are provided with a flat bottom surface for attachment of the rocker component.

A dual-last jig for holding the pair of shoes while the soles are attached and cut to form is also provided. Alignment indicators help in proper positioning of the rocker relative to the ankle joint.

The kit is used to create each rocker shoe with a heel, a toe, and a sole with a lower rocker surface extending from the heel towards the toe. The rocker surface may extend over the entire plantar surface of the shoe or may terminate at a predetermined location short of the toe of the shoe such as at the metatarsal phalangeal joint.

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