Do toning shoes deliver on promise?

May 19, 2011 8:42:32 PM PDT
They are the hottest footwear trend in years - toning shoes.

Half a dozen companies have a pair on the market and it seems people will pay anywhere from $20 to $250 for the promise of burning more calories, toning muscles, and smoothing cellulite.

Question is - do these shoes deliver?

As a nurse and avid runner, Melissa Palmer is always looking for comfy, supportive shoes.

When a lot of coworkers bought the toners, Melissa heard nothing but rave reviews.

"Everyone a work swore by them," Melissa said.

So she bought a pair from Skechers thinking she'd get comfort, plus firmer muscles. Instead, she got a shock.

"I wore them for an 8-hour shift and was nauseous," Melissa said. "My lower back hur and so did my shins."

When Melissa told her podiatrist, he wasn't shocked.

Dr. Eric Ricefield says he's had a number of toning shoe wearers complaining of injuries.

"We've had quite a few ankle sprains," Dr. Ricefield said.

He's also seen tendon and ligament strains, stress fractures and nausea, like Melissa.

Dr. Ricefield says toning shoes change the way feet interact with the ground.

"Some shoes rock from side to side, some shoes rock from front to back," Dr. Ricefield said.

That instability is supposed to make muscles in the core, backside, and legs work harder.

But the doctor says it can just make walking harder.

Still, some of the doctor's staffers like the toners.

Shawn Kincaid says she feels them working.

"I feel it in my upper thigh, right around my bottom," Shawn said.

But the American Council on Exercise says toning shoes don't deliver on the promise of a better workout.

It tested three popular brands and compared them to standard running shoes calorie for calorie.

"They burned about five calories per minute, on average, whether they were wearing toning shoes or regular running shoes," Cedric Bryant of the American Council on Exercise.

They also tested muscle activity in the abs, quads, buttocks, hamstrings, back, and calf areas that toning shoes are supposed to target.

Again, there was no difference compared to regular sneakers.

We called four major makers of the toning shoes about the study - Reebok, Skechers, New Balance, and Avia.

Reebok defended its shoes, saying "the bold conclusions made?are not supported by the actual data presented."

A California woman sued New Balance for $5-million alleging the shoes don't work.

Dr. Ricefield says the shoes can be a big help for some problems:

"People who have plantar fasciitis issues, people who have forefoot or front of the foot issues, bunion pain, bursitis," Dr. Ricefield said.

But, as the saying goes one shoe does not fit all.

Foot specialists tell Action News that if you buy the shoes, wear them at home, gradually increasing the time you spend in them, to get used to them.

And for the people who say the shoes DO help, it may because the shoes may make them more motivated to exercise!