We've all seen the enticing ads: "Wear these shoes and get a more toned butt and legs." It sounds so good ... a better body without any additional effort! All you need to do is wear the slightly goofy-looking shoes touted by MBT, Reebok, or Skechers and every step becomes a muscle-toning workout.
Or so they say. A new study by the American Council on Exercise finds that toning shoes don't live up to their claims, although there's one surprising benefit.
"These shoes make a number of claims, some of them pretty large," such as improved circulation and reduced back pain, says Todd Galati, director of the ACE Academy (which trains and accredits personal trainers, among other things). ACE decided to undertake a scientific study of the three most popular shoes: MBT, Skechers Shape-Ups, and Reebok Easy Tone.
They asked young, female, physically active volunteers to try each of the shoes and standard workout shoes (a pair of mid-range, neutral New Balance running shoes), and measured their muscle activity, calories burned, and oxygen consumption as well as their own perceptions of how hard they were working.
The upshot? There was no real difference between the toning shoes and the standard running shoes. The toning shoes burned maybe one additional calorie per 10 minutes of exercise -- which means a whopping six extra calories over an hour-long workout -- and didn't make muscles work any harder.
Not only that, they could cause problems for people with already existing balance problems. As for people who swear they feel a greater burn from the shoes? That's because they do alter your gait, Galati says, and that's going to make some muscles more sore. It's the same effect as your calves hurting if you usually wear flats and spend the day in heels.
There might be one benefit, though, Galati says. If the shoes are getting people to get out there and walk when they ordinarily wouldn't bother, that's a good thing. "For a number of people the shoes have been a motivating factor to initiate a walking program and stick with it," he says. "That alone is a real positive."
Image via Skechers