By: DEBORAH AUGUSTIN
Edited by: KELSEY CRUZ
A few years ago, FitFlop sandals, SKECHERS Shape-ups, and other footwear that claim to help tone your legs and butt were all the rage. We all have to walk around so why not buy a pair of shoes that tighten your legs and booty while you do it? The allure of the purported benefits is especially powerful if you have a busy schedule, allowing you to burn calories as you go about your day. So recently – for both my personal interests and those of my lovely readers’ – I decided to pull my own ‘toning pair’ out of storage (yes, yes, I fell into the consumer trap) and do some research to see if these expensive shoes are a worthwhile investment.
The basic idea behind these shoes is an unstable sole. Its instability is supposed to help you engage your core muscles so that you can simultaneously improve balance and activate muscles that you don’t normally use. To provide credibility, many of the shoes’ web sites use words like “technology” and cite various studies to support their claims. And with all the jargon and medical studies, it’s quite easy to buy into the hype and believe you are burning more calories on your recent trek to the subway than you did in your old running shoes.
Unfortunately, none of the studies have gone through the peer review process where the results are verified by researchers independent of the shoe company. While this alone may not completely refute the claims made by the shoe manufacturers, it is a sign that you should take their findings with a grain of salt. In fact, SKECHERS now publishes the following disclaimer on its Shape-ups purchase page: “Decreases in weight or body fat and increases in muscle strength or toning have not been clinically shown”.
What’s more, a study funded by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) compares toning running shoes to regular running shoes. Researchers measured the intensity of the exercise levels and oxygen consumption of participants using both the toning shoes and regular running shoes. Stephanie Tepper, M.S., a researcher in the ACE study is quoted in an article on the findings of the study that “…the toning shoes definitely don’t do more than the regular running shoe.”
Sadly, people who have just started to wear toning shoes may think they feel a difference from the unstable soles, but the effect is temporary. Their muscles are probably just adjusting to the instability and will eventually adjust, just like your body does when it gets used to an exercise routine.
I promise you – when a product hits the market that tones your body with minimal effort – you will hear it here first. Until then, hit the gym and sweat yourself to success!