Are Toning Shoes the Answer to Fitness and Strength?
You’ve seen the commercials, Joe Montana wears Sketchers Shape Ups, young women dancing and walking on the beach in their Reebok Easy Tones. And of course there are the classic MBT shoes (Masai Barefoot Technology) that have been around for years. Each of these shoes uses a uniquely shaped rounded sole and extra cushioning to alter the wearer’s normal gait pattern, constantly forcing the body to find balance and equilibrium.
These shoes and their effects on the muscular and balance systems were recently examined by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) – the first study not conducted by the shoe manufacturers themselves!
The study compared exercise response ande muscle activation between individuals wearing toning shoes and those wearing traditional walking shoes while walking on a treadmill. The results revealed that none of the toning shoes showed statistically significant increases in exercise response, caloric expenditure or muscle activation.
Why do these shoes feel different when you wear them?
We speculate that the amount of cushioning changes the way your body feels, making you feel different while your body adapts to walking on this new surface.
Will these shoes improve your balance?
Since exercising on an unstable surface is frequently recommended to improve balance, wearing the shoes may have a positive effect. However, your body is very efficient and will quickly adapt to walking in new shoes, possibly with unwanted alterations to your gait that may increase injury risk. To limit these unwanted adaptations, we typically recommend wearing the shoes for short periods and emphasizing maintaining a normal walking pattern in the shoes.
The author of this article is Stephanie Penny, PT, DPT, from Lakeshore Sports Physical Therapy – Southport.