A Sneaker by Any Other Name…

Toning shoes, sneakers that claim to help improve posture, burn more calories and help tone your lower body simply by walking in them, have been the hot fitness trend of the summer and fall. Also called fitness shoes or instability sneakers, the shoes are built on the idea of maintaining balance while walking on an unstable surface.  The soles of these shoes are rounded rather than flat, forcing the wearer to engage the muscles in their legs and ankles more in order to stay balanced.  Sketchers, New Balance and Reebok each have their own version of fitness shoe, but at about $100 or more per pair, are they really worth it?

Sketchers provides case studies on their website supporting their claim that Shape-Ups sneakers help tone and strengthen leg, back and abdominal muscles, yet a study of several brands of toning shoe conducted by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) showed no significant difference in muscle activity in the legs and back compared to regular running shoes.  There are also concerns that the shoes’ design could cause injuries to the Achilles tendon and fall-related injuries for people who have difficulty balancing.  Regardless of whether or not the shoes are as effective at toning the lower body as they claim, they’re still no substitute for a regular fitness routine.  In most cases, a regular pair of walking or running shoes, provided they have the proper fit, will serve you just as well. 

Wearing shoes and socks during daily activity will go a long way in protecting your feet from injury and reducing the risks of developing serious foot complications, but only if they fit correctly.  Shoes that are too tight can cause blisters or other breaks in the skin that can become infected if not treated properly, while shoes that are too loose will not provide adequate protection.  When buying a new pair of shoes, whether they’re toning shoes or regular sneakers, look for ones that offer plenty of wiggle room for your toes (but not so much that your foot slides around in them) and provide support for the back of your foot without rubbing against your ankle. 

What do you think about toning shoes?  Are they worth the hype, or just a fad?

(Information reviewed by MGH Physical Therapist)

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