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Shoe Companies React continued...

"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."

A Doctor's View of Toning Shoes

Najia Shakoor, MD, an associate professor of internal medicine at Rush Medical College and an attending physician at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, spends a lot of time in her lab studying shoes and determining which types are best for people with arthritis.

Her verdict on toning shoes for people with arthritis: Thumbs down.

"I don't think there is any evidence to suggest that they do anything beneficial for arthritis," Shakoor says. Her research shows that flat, flexible shoes are more joint-friendly. "This is the complete opposite of the rocker bottom," she says.

Shakoor is not sold on the role that these shows play in improving fitness levels of people without arthritis, either.

Yes, "your posture improves because you are wearing an unstable shoe, so you have to balance yourself by standing up straight," Shakoor says. But "more research is needed to see who they are appropriate for."

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