Toning shoes, such as those sold by Skechers and Reebok, are designed to alter your gait, making you feel unstable on your feet. Skechers and Reebok claim that wearers of the shoes, while stabilizing their steps, strengthen their leg, buttock, back, and abdominal muscles simply by walking around – eliminating the need for the gym.
However, it is important to remember that using toning shoes comes with the risk of personal injury. Medical experts point out that while toning shoes are appealing, there are many potential safety and health hazards to wearing them, including:
- problems with balance
- altered gait
- risk of fall
- stress fractures
- strained Achilles tendons
Nike Expresses Doubt About Benefits of Toning Shoes
Notably, Nike, the world’s largest seller of athletic shoes, and holder of the largest market share in the U.S. woman's athletic footwear market, has refused to invest in the development of a line of toning shoes, expressing doubt about their training benefits.
Eric Sprunk, Nike’s VP for global product and merchandising, notes that the benefits of toning shoes are unsupported by scientific evidence. In a recent speech on innovation, Sprunk maintained that it is simply not possible to design a pair of shoes that will allow wearers to tone their buttock, back, and abdominal muscles simply by walking around.
Both Consumer Reports, and the American Council on Exercise, which announced that toning shoes do not significantly increase muscle activity, share Nike’s doubts. These doubts are also shared by medical professionals who have raised questions regarding the lack of evidence for the training benefits of toning shoes.
John Pagliano, a podiatrist in Long Beach, California, who has reviewed studies of toning shoes, notes the lack of evidence to support the claim that the shoes actually tone the buttocks of wearers. Pagliano does not recommend the use of toning shoes. Other medical experts have questioned the studies allegedly proving the benefits of the shoe, noting:
- the small sizes of sample groups testing the shoes
- the lack of controlled testing
- the lack of sound scientific evidence of the effect of the shoe on muscle activity and growth