Do Toning Shoes Really Work? A Look at the Evidence

ReebokThe newest athletic shoes on the market promise to tone your legs, strengthen your muscles, and help you burn more calories, and some of my girlfriends swear by them.

But do they really work?

Let's take a look at the evidence.





Skechers Shape-Ups

I'll be the first to admit that I've been incredibly skeptical about this new breed of shoes, but more and more of my friends really seem to believe that they work.

So when I saw a Skechers Shape-Ups booth at the Getting Gorgeous event in New York City last week, I was eager to finally try on a pair and see if I noticed a difference.

Well, I did. When I laced on the shoes (which were similar to this Skecher Awareness Shoe, $100) and stood up, it essentially felt like I was balancing on miniballs. You can't rest on the backs of your heels in these shoes, so you're constantly working your muscles (albeit slightly) to stay upright.

Comfortable? Not really. But if the point of putting on workout shoes is to work out, why not choose a shoe that actually makes you feel like you're working? I could see why my friends like them so much.

Skechers is hardly the only shoe on the market with this kind of technology, though.


ReebokI'm enthralled by these glam Reebok EasyTone Reeinspire shoes (Reebok, $124.98), simply for their looks, which totally take me back to my breakdancing days. (I did an excellent moonwalk.) In addition to looking fly, Reebok promises that these shoes will "improve muscle tone in the hamstrings, calves, and glutes" and that they were designed to simulate walking on sand. Whoa.


New BalanceThe New Balance True Balance 850 (New Balance, $89.99) is another popular option -- it also claims enhanced toning and calorie burning simply by wearing them during a workout.


FitflopThen there's the Fitflop (Zappos, $59.90), a flip-flop that supposedly tones your legs and butt. I like the idea of a shoe that tones my muscles while I'm out and about, but I'm not sure I'm willing to pay $60 for flip-flops, even those that claim to shape up my legs. Interestingly, though, there are 140 reviews of this flip-flop on Zappos, and the majority of them give the shoe five out of five stars ...

As for hard evidence, the American Council on Exercise did a study on whether toning shoes built muscle or burned calories -- according to their report (via, "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."

And MSNBC reports that some experts believe they might even be causing more injuries.

That said, it looks like I might be sticking with my plain old Nikes after all ....

So what do you think of these toning shoes? Short-lived hype or here to stay?

Images (top to bottom): Reebok; Skechers; Reebok; Zappos

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