Skechers Shape-Ups, Other Toning Shoes Unproven, May Be Dangerous

Toning shoes, like <"">Skechers Shape-Ups, whose popularity has grown exponentially, might not be all they’re touted to be. The new footwear promises to tone muscles and improve posture, said USA Today; makers advertise shapelier buttocks, legs, and abs without the expense and bother of a workout.

Toning shoes, constructed with rocking soles, are meant to stretch leg muscles with every step, and represent the fastest growing segment in the athletic footwear market, said USA Today. The market, said sneaker analyst Matt Powell of SportsOneSource, is mostly female; sneakers are marketed to women who spend their day standing and walking and sell for $100-$200, explained USA Today.

Skechers Shape-Ups recently enlisted Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana, in its advertising outreach to men, said USA Today. Powell believes this move will prompt a sales increase of 400 percent this year, $1.5 billion. “We’ve never seen a category grow this fast,” he said, quoted USA Today. But, despite the flashy ads and celebrity promos, physician warnings are on the rise, cautioning that toning shoes not only don’t do what they promise, but Toning Shoe Injuries, including changing how one walks, can occur, said USA Today.

According to Barbara de Lateur, a distinguished service professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the renowned Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, calls the claims that toning shoes can be used to improve one’s fitness “utter nonsense,” wrote USA Today. De Lateur and a growing number of physicians warn that toners destabilize how one walks, leading to strained Achilles tendons and can be dangerous to those with balance issues, explained USA Today. One consumer described her Skecher’s Shape-Up Injury, breaking her ankle on her first and only time using Skechers Shape-Ups said USA Today.

The shoes tout the sensation of walking on the beach and their intentional instability causes the wearer to exert more effort to stay balanced. Advertised by Skechers, Reebok, MBT (Masai Barefoot Technology), Avia, New Balance, and FitFlop claims include: “Get in Shape Without Setting Foot in a Gym,” (Skechers); “EasyTone shoes help tone your butt and legs with every step,” (Reebok); and “Anti-Shoe” will “tone muscles your trainer never knew you had” (MBT).

David Davidson, national president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, says the notion of adults relearning to walk can be “scary” when dealing with a person with a “borderline problem” about which they might be unaware, adding that he is suspicious of any shoe that needs an instructional booklet and DVD. “Nothing about these shoes has any redeeming value to me,” he says. “Sorry, I don’t see it,” he added, quoted USA Today.

Bryan Markinson, chief of podiatric medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said some patients “not in the greatest of shape” reported inflamed Achilles tendons after wearing these shoes. Jonathan Deland, chief of foot and ankle service at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, cautions that the shoes can be “dangerous” for those with balance issues, said USA Today. Joseph Berning, Ph.D., program director of kinesiology and associate professor at New Mexico State University, said, wrote Las Cruces Sun, he believes no real studies have ever been conducted to back up ad claims.

Two new studies from the American Council of Exercise tested toning efficacy in toning versus traditional athletic shoes, said Las Cruces Sun, evaluating walking exercise and muscle activation responses. Both studies, said Las Cruces Sun, found no significant difference between any of the toning versus standard running shoes.

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