Being healthier, getting more exercise, and eating right are phrases so often heard in today’s movement to lead a healthier lifestyle, it was no surprise when the “toning shoes” were introduced in commercials like Sketchers Shape-Ups, the shoes that tone your muscles when you walk.  Health experts have revealed their opinions about how well the toning shoes work and who they are appropriate for.

What makes them different than other shoes?

These shoes have an unstable, strongly curved sole. Walking in them is akin to exercising on a balance or wobble board in the gym or barefoot along a sandy beach. Advocates say that this instability forces you to use muscles that you otherwise would not – namely those is your feet, legs, butt, and abs — which could lead to weight loss. The shoes can also change your posture and gait and take pressure off of achy, overused joints.

Podiatrist, Cary M. Golub, DPM, of Long Beach, N.Y. indicates that these shoes can be beneficial for people with heel pain, however, they are not for everyone.

“They take the pressure off of the heel and give more support to the ankle,” he says.

“These shoes put the strain on your hamstrings and glutes, so if you are not athletic or a seasoned walker, they may hurt the muscles that they are supposed to help,” Golub says. “If you are not used to firing these muscles, the shoes may hurt.”

Golub’s advice: “Break them in slowly for an hour or so. Don’t start walking 2 or 3 miles in them.”

The view of toning shoes through a trainer’s eyes, Fabio Comana, an exercise physiologist at the American Council on Exercise in San Diego, is that the concept of toning shoes is relevant, however, he also says they are not for everyone or for every activity.

“It’s not a good idea to run in these shoes, especially if you are at all deconditioned,” he tells WebMD. “They are fine to stand around in,” he says. However, he cautions that people with balance problems and elderly people should not wear these shoes as instability may increase risk of falling and fractures.

Margaret Schwarz, a personal trainer at New York’s Equinox health club, explains that the benefit of toning shoes comes from propelling one’s body weight through space, something that doesn’t happen when on a treadmill, emphasizing that toning shoes are not for every activity.  She recommends these shoes for an experienced person to incorporate balance training into their daily regiment.

A doctor’s view of toning shoes comes from Najia Shakoor, MD, an associate professor of internal medicine at Rush Medical College and an attending physician at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.  She has studied these shoes and the effects and benefits they have on people with Arthritis, of which she indicates that flat, flexible shoes are better for the joints.  In her opinion, more research is needed to find out who the toning shoes are most appropriate for.

Shoe companies like Sketchers and Reebok stand behind the toning shoe movement with the expectation that people will listen to their bodies to determine if the shoes are right for them.  People with balance issues may find that these shoes are not appropriate for them, but for others, toning shoes could be the step in the right direction they are looking for.

Bill McInnis, the head of advanced innovation for Reebok, based in Canton, Mass., created the technology used in Reebok’s EasyTone line. “We looked at stability balls from the gym and incorporated that same thinking into a shoe,” he says. “The idea was that introducing soft, micro-instability in the shoe would cause you to have to rebalance a bit with every single step and cause your muscles to work a little harder all day long,” he says.

After having read the full article, I remain interested in finding out how toning shoes will affect my body, as I consider myself an average young adult (no balance issues, no arthritis, etc.).  Health experts indicate that more research is needed to fully determine the benefits and risks of toning shoes.

If you have tried any of the toning shoe brands, what was your experience?


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