"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.