Who hasn't wished for a miracle product to hit the market that can help you get fit, slim, and toned without putting in any extra effort?
Researchers, or at least marketing departments, were listening. About 10 years ago, a company called Masai Barefoot Technology, or MBT, launched their toning shoes.
Now all types of unusual-looking fitness shoes are on the shelves, promising to firm up your thighs and butt as you walk. Choices include the Reebok EasyTone, Skechers Shape-Ups, and New Balance True Balance toning shoes. For toning up in warm weather, there are Reebok EasyTone Flip Flops, FitFlop toning sandals, and Skechers Tone-ups. Some companies, including FitFlop, also make toning boots as well as shoes and clogs.
Toning shoes are designed with a base that's different from traditional shoes. Rather than being flat and stable, they're rounded at the bottom, which forces you - and your muscles - to work harder to maintain balance. Toning shoes are also said to improve your posture, help you to burn more calories, and build and tone muscle.
You can expect to pay around $40 for a pair of toning sandals and up to $250 for toning sneakers.
Before you plunk down your plastic for some shoes that claim to work your muscles without your having to break a sweat, you need to know whether they actually work.
"The marketing for toning shoes is a bit over the top," says William Sukala, a clinical exercise physiologist and consumer health advocated with Pinnacle Medical Exercise in Auckland, New Zealand. Of particular concern, says Sukala, is the fact that there isn't a lot of independent research to back up the claims of the shoe companies.
Toning shoe companies say that they work by supposedly activating more muscle fibers than standard running shoes, says Sukala. That means they should be more effective at toning your thighs and hips.
The American Council on Exercise conducted a study to see whether the claims of these toning shoes live up to the hype. In the study, two groups of women went toe-to-toe on exercise with one group wearing standard athletic shoes while the other sported toning shoes. Researchers measured and compared the activity of the muscles during exercise for the women in both groups.
The results? Turns out, toning shoes really are too good to be true. The women who worked out in the toning shoes didn't appear to get any more benefit or work their muscles any harder than those who wore standard athletic shoes.
Based on the study results, "I'm inclined to believe the shoes will only slim your wallet," says Sukala. And if you have balance problems, it's possible that you could be more likely to trip and fall because of the unstable base of the shoe.
Taking Toning Shoes for a Spin
Erin Taylor, 32, of Tampa Bay, Fla., is a stay-at-home mom of two boys and a busy blogger - she's the editor of theMomBuzz.com. She's also into health and fitness, so toning shoes sounded like a good idea.10 Ways to Burn Calories From Guilty Pleasures
"Like most women, being able to tone and burn calories just by doing what you normally would do - run errands, go shopping, pick up kids - was very inviting, especially since 'being too busy' is one reason many women skip the gym or working out," says Taylor. She's tried a number of brands and styles of toning sneakers and sandals - and she feels that they have helped tone her muscles. "Whether it's a frame of mind or actuality, it's hard to say," she admits.
While toning shoes can't take the place of hitting the gym and sticking to a healthy diet, Taylor stands by using them. "Every little bit helps," says Taylor.
Even if toning shoes can't give you the killer legs you crave just by walking around, that doesn't mean that they're a total wash. If lacing up those sneakers gets you off the couch and moving around, then it's money well spent.
"I think the shoes themselves offer up more hype than help, but on a positive note, if it gets people excited to go out and exercise more regularly, then I suppose that's an added benefit," says Sukala.
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