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Christine Luff

Do Toning Shoes Work?

By July 23, 2010

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skecher shapeups

"If Joe Montana wears and endorses them, they must work, right?" That's what you may be thinking when you see those ubiquitous commercials for Skechers Shape-up shoes, but a new study from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) suggests that Shape-ups and others like them - MBTs (Masai Barefoot Technology) and Reebok EasyTone shoes -- won't help you build more muscle or burn more calories as they promise.

The idea behind toning shoes is that their unstable sole forces you to find a balance point, making you work harder than if you're wearing regular shoes. To test the claims, ACE researchers conducted two studies. One study evaluated exercise responses to walking in traditional running shoes (a New Balance running shoe) versus the toning shoes. The second study evaluated muscle activation when walking in regular running shoes compared to toning shoes.

Their conclusion (detailed in their report) was that, "Across the board, none of the toning shoes showed statistically significant increases in either exercise response or muscle activation during any of the treadmill trials. 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."

So how do researchers respond to those who say they felt sore or noticed results after wearing toning shoes? The shoes' cushioning and unstable sole forces you to use different muscles than other shoes, but that doesn't mean you're working any harder, burning more calories, or going to get toned, according to researchers. The silver lining, however, is that spending money on these shoes may motivate inactive people to get moving because they think they're getting a toning effect. So that's a good thing.

Have you tried toning shoes?  What do you think?  Share your review and read reviews about toning shoes.


July 26, 2010 at 10:13 am
(1) Suzann says:

The first of these types of shoes I had seen were the Fit Flops and I was intrigued. But I thought better to buy them knowing that they probably didn’t really work. I’m glad I passed!
I do know some people who do own a pair and feel that they work. My thoughts are that they might give you some added benefit – - if you are already a walker. But thinking that you are going to get fit simply by wearing them is just not realistic.

July 26, 2010 at 12:39 pm
(2) Jon says:

Traditional running shoes atrophy the glutes. I dumped my Nikes for GistFiveToes. My Gists have brought my tone back, and I feel like I am connecting to the Earth when I run. After some more training, I am going to go completely barefoot. I tried others (Vibram & Five Fingers), but the zipper on the Gists makes them fit more snugly.

July 27, 2010 at 11:18 pm
(3) best orthopedic shoes says:

I think shoes are not a major factor in toning your body. What matter are the right training program and also a good trainer. I think these factors will help you to tone your body.

July 29, 2010 at 10:04 pm
(4) marcus the shape ups guy says:

I have a pair of skechers shape up shoe and base on experience, it worked for me, since using these shoes i felt a change in my thighs and lower back. The good thing about this shoes is I can wear these even at work

August 3, 2010 at 10:45 am
(5) Orieta says:

thank you! thank you for helping me save the $100 I would have spent buying these type of shoes. I had always been suspicious of this being another marketing gimmick.

August 9, 2010 at 3:24 am
(6) CCC says:

I love my Skechers Shape-ups. I had major foot surgery a year and a half ago & these shoes provide wonderful support and are very comfortable. Whether or not they actually help tone & burn calories is irrelevant to me. They are extremely comfortable and good for my feet.

August 10, 2010 at 12:18 am
(7) Monica says:

Avia Avi-Motion shoes have greatly relieved the knee pain I’ve suffered from over the past 5 years. I walk at least 5 miles daily and buy 2 pairs of athletic shoes at a time because I wear through them so quickly. I have plantar fasciitis, hammertoes, and a bunion as well. I haven’t noticed more tone, but the pain relief has been worth it!!

August 12, 2010 at 1:21 pm
(8) Toning Shoes says:

Please look at http://www.toningshoestudies.com for scientific studies on the effectiveness of toning shoes and rocker bottom shoes. The site includes peer-reviewed studies published in journals.

August 18, 2010 at 4:27 pm
(9) ReUnpack says:

Seriously!? Toning shoes. Give me a break. People need to get off their lazy a$$es and put the work in. Get on a good exercise program and fix your diet. That is the only way. You will not get tone wearing some spongy shoes. Maybe go barefoot running. This will for sure strengthen your lower legs and straighten out your posture. Invest in some Vibram Five Fingers.

October 18, 2010 at 12:31 am
(10) chrystal says:

I am a skeptic who doesn’t fall for fads but after hearing so much I purchased some Avia avi-toning shoes. I was instantly impressed. I have a bone spur near my big toe and was immediately able to walk in these shoes without feeling the pain from it. It seems to me that in these shoes, you roll off the foot from further back on the heel for each step, thus taking stress off the toes and front end of the foot. My husband has a pair and we keep commenting on our walks that the shoes put a spring in our step and we are walking the same distance more quickly because of this. My sister purchased the Easy Spirit toning sandals and athletic shoes and swears they relieve the pain of her arthritic knee. This has been 3 mos. ago with no negative side effects. I don’t vouch for the weight loss aspects but we are all believers here. I am about to order some dressier versions of this design. One can’t argue with success!!!

November 7, 2010 at 5:57 pm
(11) Elizabeth says:

I don’t think I get a better workout from my MBTs, but they do encourage me to workout more often because the shape of the sole makes it less painful for me to run. The impact changes and I don’t end up with shin splints.

November 8, 2010 at 9:52 pm
(12) Natalia says:

http://www.terox.com/ — take a look at these, totally new in toning, function and style. Is this Nike under a different label finally coming with a toning wellness flip flop?

November 21, 2010 at 3:59 pm
(13) Adriana says:

This is a very entertaining, light and fun segment on toning shoes in New York City:


December 31, 2010 at 12:58 am
(14) Best Toning Shoes for Women says:

Something I would be very interested in seeing more studies done on is the other effects of toning shoes – such as the fact that many people (particularly women) who have osteoarthritis stating that this type of shoe has given them relief from the pain caused by the arthritis.

I would also like to see studies done on the long term effects of wearing this type of shoe…

February 11, 2011 at 9:03 pm
(15) Eillain says:

Even if they don’t work they force you to balance and maintain better posture, and to use muscles you don’t normally use. I know many nurses who where them and swear by them, and these people are constantly on their feet! They have less lower back pain and their glutes and hamstrings have become more toned.

March 16, 2011 at 12:49 pm
(16) aren says:

Many people I work with love toning shoes just for the comfort. When you work 8-10 hours a day on concrete they really help.

March 28, 2011 at 7:06 pm
(17) Karen says:

I just bought the Avia toners. They are very comfortable, and I do feel it working other muscles. I also like that they do not leave a blister on my heels like my running shoes did. Love them!

April 20, 2012 at 11:53 am
(18) allison painter says:

I thought this debate was pretty much settled. However I have a friend who wears “toners” and loves them. After all, can they really hurt anything.

June 22, 2012 at 9:26 am
(19) Dalton Collier says:

I have read that Shechers are under investigation about these shoes. Sometimes things are just too good to be true.

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