Do Toning Shoes Work?

By Ashley Henshaw. May 7th 2016

One of the latest and most popular footwear trends emerging in recent years is shoes that tone your muscles. There are numerous shoe brands creating this type of shoe, but some experts disagree on whether they can really do the things they claim to do. If you are thinking about buying a pair of toning shoes, read this article to learn more.

What Are Toning Shoes?

Toning shoes are a special type of footwear that are designed with a rocker sole. This generally means that the sole of the shoe itself is thicker and has a slightly rounded bottom. Generally, the shoes are made in a walking shoe or gym shoe so that they can be worn regularly and during workouts.

Originally, rocker sole shoes were sold to people with foot and ankle problems, including people with diabetes. The shoes were intended to provide added support and comfort to these individuals. However, many shoe companies are now marketing these shoes as toning shoes, with the claim that they will be able to burn calories and tone muscles more effectively than regular shoes.

One of the first brands to strongly market these shoes as toning shoes was Skechers, whose Shape-Ups toning shoes became popular very quickly. Other brands, including Reebok and New Balance, soon followed with toning shoe models of their own.

Potential Benefits Of Toning Shoes

The idea behind toning shoes is that, because of the elevated sole and unstable, curved bottom, your body will constantly be making adjustments for proper balancing and positioning. This extra work for your body, while generally not very noticeable, creates a more active and effective workout, especially since it forces you to use muscles that you normally wouldn't during similar workouts. Here are some of the most common claims about the potential benefits of using toning shoes:

  • Increased muscle activity for toning in the legs, back, buttocks and abdomen
  • Lessened impact on the feet and joints
  • More calories and fat burned than with regular shoes
  • Promotion of healthy weight loss
  • Improved cardio health and circulation
  • Better circulation
  • Improved posture

It's important to keep in mind that, although some people may experience these benefits, buying and wearing the shoes are not a guarantee for better fitness and health. Additionally, some individuals, such as those with back, knee or hip problems, may have trouble using toning shoes due to the instability they create while walking.

Toning Shoe Controversy

In some cases, it appears that the proposed benefits of toning shoes are too good to be true. A study released by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) reported that toning shoes don't deliver on their claims. Specifically, they do not cause you to burn more calories and fat, improve your muscle tone or give you a more intense workout. Other studies have found similar results, with toning shoes showing no significant difference from regular shoes when it comes to their effects on your health.

The most that experts say the toning shoes can do for you is to increase muscle activation for a short period - likely no more than a few weeks. After that time, you body adjusts to the shoes to the point where extra muscle activation is not required for stabilization on the rounded sole of the shoe. This may also affect posture for a short time as you require a more upright position to stay balanced, but that too can decrease over time as your body adjusts to the shoes.

As more studies emerge to prove that toning shoes aren't necessarily all that they purport to be, some shoe companies are having to deal with the repercussions of making those claims. For example, Reebok International Ltd. was recently charged with false advertising for their toning shoes because they did not live up to their claims for muscle toning. Specifically, the company claimed that their EasyTone shoes could result in 11 percent more muscle tone in the calf and hamstring area and 28 percent more muscle tone in the glutes.

The charge was brought up by the Federal Trade Commission, which ended up received $25 million from Reebok for customer refunds. Now, the FTC is looking at other toning shoe brands to see if those particular models do not live up to their claims either.

The Wall Street Journal reports that toning shoes have become less popular due to these lawsuits, and that some shoe companies which manufacture them are cutting prices in order to get rid of their inventory. For some people, this provides a good reason to try toning shoes out to see if they really do improve health and fitness. However, keep in mind that many experts and legal entities have found that, in most cases, these shoes do not deliver on the promises that their manufacturer's make.


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