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The Truth About Toning Shoes

Do these shoes help you shape up? Health and fitness experts size up toning shoes.
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Shoe Companies React

Shoe makers are unshaken by the ACE study on toning shoes. Leonard Armato, president of Skechers' fitness group, in Manhattan Beach, Calif, stands behind his product 100%. "I have not a doubt that the Shape-Up technology requires you to make a little more effort with each step, burn more calories, and activate more muscles," he says.

Armato does, however, have some doubts about the new study results. "This study is not published in a peer-reviewed journal, and only involved 12 young, fit women who walked for five minutes on a treadmill," he tells WebMD. "ACE represents fitness trainers who are at odds with the toning industry, and don't want toning to take root."

It's a turf war, he says. "They have the most to lose if people start walking around in these shoes as opposed to going to a gym and hiring a personal trainer."

Bill McInnis, the head of advanced innovation for Reebok, based in Canton, Mass., created the technology used in Reebok's EasyTone line. "We looked at stability balls from the gym and incorporated that same thinking into a shoe," he says. "The idea was that introducing soft, micro-instability in the shoe would cause you to have to rebalance a bit with every single step and cause your muscles to work a little harder all day long," he says.

"The new study makes bold statements without the data to back it up," he tells WebMD.

"When you walk on a soft sandy beach, you will work harder so when you build a shoe that is softer when you land on it, you get the same effect and are working the muscles harder," he says.

Reebok's EasyTone shoes "increase muscle activation, but we don't make claims about burning calories or weight loss."

MBT issued this statement to WebMD: "Independent research and published studies have shown the benefits of MBT footwear. Studies have been conducted by researchers at a number of educational and research institutions. We stand by the conclusions of that research and those studies."

The Podiatrist's View of Toning Shoes

Cary M. Golub, DPM, a podiatrist in Long Beach, N.Y, says toning or rocker-bottom shoes have a place in certain people's shoe collection.

For starters, these shoes may help relieve pain among people with heel pain, he says. "They take the pressure off of the heel and give more support to the ankle," he says.

"These shoes put the strain on your hamstrings and glutes, so if you are not athletic or a seasoned walker, they may hurt the muscles that they are supposed to help," Golub says. "If you are not used to firing these muscles, the shoes may hurt."

Golub's advice: "Break them in slowly for an hour or so. Don't start walking 2 or 3 miles in them."

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