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

shoes, trends


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sstepph sstepph

Not sure. I find the Sketchers to be completely ugly. Now there sandals aren't thaaat bad. IF I were to get a pair I would go with Reeboks (not the gold shown) I've been debating whether to get a pair or not. I even though of the fit flops to just wear around the house when I am cleaning & what not. Hmmm... I want to see the toned calfs and butts because of these shoes ~ LOL

Linds... LindsayFerrier

Interesting that you say that- One of the highlights of the Skechers pitch at their booth was that their newest version of Shape-Ups looks a lot better than the old ones!

The shoes that really annoy me right now are the toning shoes with funky heels on them. Those are just plain FUGLY.

lovin... lovinangels

I have a pair (with the little balls) that I got at payless during a bogo plus a coupon so I paid five bucks for them, and you can feel them!

Linds... LindsayFerrier

Hey, I'll try anything for five dollars!

RanaA... RanaAurora

Honestly I think the more people mess with the natural gait and alignment, the more issues they're going to create.

Jesse... JessecaLynn

I have flipflops that are similar to the ones shown, and I really haven't noticed a difference with them.  I don't really feel that they work anything.  They are pretty comfortable but probably  better for your feet than the flat ones since they actually support your feet.

kelli... kelli0585

I think this shoe is going to be one of those embarrassing fads that we look back on in amusement in a few decades.

Sort of like a future VH1 episode of "I Love The 2010's."

emmas... emmasmama2007

I was skeptical too. I needed a good pair of walking shoes, since i like to take long walks in the evenings; and my old ones were wearing out. I wanted to try out the reebock easy tone shoes, but they just seemed a little too pricey, and the sketchers are ugly. So I went to big5, and found these toning walking shoes on sale for $30 originally 140. I had never heard of the brand: Spring Boost. They are certified by the International Federation of Sports Medicine. I wore them and walked home, and man did i get a work out of them. I felt like i was climbing up a mountain cause the heel is lower than the foot of the ball, it's supposed to help your posture. They came with two insoles, so you get the "beginner" and "advanced" (they just have more of an angle"). I did notice my legs got a bit more toned, although I notice it a lot more on my mom, since they were on sale when  I bought them I got a pair for her as well.

JenBr... JenBrooks76

I could see where the toning shoes could benefit someone who needs encouragement to get up and about. If a person does more walking around because they got these shoes, then I am all for it. Personally, I am more comfortable wearing some nice trainers and just getting out and about anyway. I am pretty sure the toning shoes would actually discourage me lol.

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