Recent studies have highlighted the potential advantages of allowing inelastic foundation response during strong seismic shaking. Such an alternative seismic design philosophy, in which soil failure is used as a "fuse" for the superstructure has recently been proposed, in the form of "rocking isolation". Within this context, foundation rocking may be desirable as a means of bounding the inertia forces transmitted onto the superstructure, but incorporates the peril of unacceptable settlements in case of a low static factor of safety FS . Hence, to ensure that rocking is materialized through uplifting rather than sinking, an adequately large FS is required. Although this is feasible in theory, soil properties are not always well-known in engineering practice. However, since rocking-induced soil yielding is only mobilized within a shallow layer underneath the footing, "shallow soil improvement" is considered as an alternative approach to release the design from the jeopardy of unforeseen inadequate FS . For this purpose, this paper studies the rocking response of relatively slender SDOF structures (h/B ratio equals 3 and rocking dominates over sliding), with emphasis on the effectiveness of shallow soil improvement stretching to various depths below the foundation. A series of reduced-scale monotonic and slow-cyclic pushover tests are conducted on SDOF systems lying on a square surface foundation. It is shown that shallow soil improvement may, indeed, be quite effective provided that its depth is equal to the width of the foundation. For lightly-loaded systems, an even shallower soil improvement may also be considered effective, depending on design requirements. The effectiveness of shallow soil improvement is ameliorated with the increase of cyclic rotation amplitude, and with repeating cycles of loading.