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Friday Fitness: Do Toning Shoes Actually Work? Independent, Peer-Reviewed Study says, No.

Sketchers Shape Ups

I’m bound to catch some resistance in writing this article.  Anecdotally, toning shoes are the best thing since leg-warmers and Chuck Taylor All Stars.  Toning Shoes, such as Skechers’ Shape Ups, are the fastest growing segment of the $17 billion-a-year athletic footwear industry, cruising along with a customer base that is 90% women.  The shoe that promises to “shape up” your behind is expected to see a sales growth of over 400% this year, translating into over $1.5 billion.  So, I’m assuming if you’re reading this you’ve either seen them in action or own a pair yourself.


Manufactures claim that the shoes “can help you burn more calories”, “tone your butt”, “relieve tension in the neck and back” and even help “keep you out of the gym.”  In addition the basic theory is enticing to consumers, which is why so many are probably quick to embrace.  But, what does the science really say?  The American Council on Exercise, a non-profit group, has published the first independent peer-reviewed study that examines the efficacy of their claims.


The results; toning shoes are no more effective at working your muscles than regular running shoes.  Yes it’s true, you’ll probably end up burning through more money than calories.  The research was sound and conclusive.  After observing heart rate, oxygen consumption, perceived exertion and calorie burn the experts say “there is simply no evidence to support the claims that these shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone.”


But, you may say, I’ve been reading all the reviews and blogs that boast their comfort and brag about how much you can feel your muscles working.  Dr. Porcari, the lead researcher on the ACE study says it best, “Do you feel different when you’re wearing these shoes? Of course you do because you’re walking on probably on inch worth of cushioning.  They feel different, and that’s why when people first wear them they’re probably going to be sore because you’re using  different muscles.  But if you wear any sort of abnormal shoes that you’re not used to wearing, your muscles are going to get sore.  Is that going to translate into toning your butt, hamstrings and calves? Nope.  Your body is just going to get used to it.”


Nike, however, is one of the few major companies that refuse to buy into the hype (see below).  They gave us the classic slogan of “Just Do It!” and now they are poised to break through the hysteria with the line “This Shoe Works  If You Do.”  I completely agree, stop looking to magic shoes for the answer.  Our bodies are designed to move.  The human foot has 26 bones and 20 muscles working in unison.  Don’t make your body relearn how to walk, use the perfect machine that’s been given to you.  And if it’s the butt your concerned about, eat a bagel less a day and shoot for those 10,000 steps.


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