Sep 01, 2010 / by corematters / No Comments

At a fitness convention last month, talk among trainers turned to those special magic shoes that claim to tone your buns and give you glutes of steel, all by simply paying close to $100 and then walking around.   Our conclusion?  They don’t work and people are getting hurt.  These are anecdotal, of course.  Just a bunch of fitness professionals talking shop.

But last week, American Council on Exercise (ACE) announced that their research study finds “Toning Shoes Fail to Deliver on Fitness Claims.”

The American Council on Exercise (ACE), America’s leading authority on fitness and the largest non-profit fitness certification, education and training organization in the world, today released the findings from an independent research study on the effectiveness of popular toning shoes including Skechers Shape-Ups, MBT (Masai Barefoot Technology) and Reebok EasyTone. The study, one of the first from an independent organization, enlisted a team of researchers from the Exercise and Health Program at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, and found no evidence to suggest that the shoes help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone.

To test the toning shoes’ effectiveness and evaluate their claims, a team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, led by John Porcari, Ph.D., John Greany, Ph.D., Stephanie Tepper, M.S., Brian Edmonson, B.S. and Carl Foster, Ph.D., designed a pair of studies to evaluate the exercise responses and muscle activation that take place while walking with toning shoes versus traditional athletic shoes.

All three toning shoes tested showed no statistically significant increases in either exercise response or muscle activation during the treadmill trials, when compared to the normal athletic shoes tested.

Bryant warns consumers to be wary of such studies sponsored by manufacturers, many of which are not peer-reviewed and may be of questionable design. ACE’s study also addresses anecdotal evidence consumers have shared indicating that they feel the shoes are working their muscles due to localized muscle soreness.  Study researchers explain that this feeling is due to the shoe’s unstable sole design, which cause wearers to use slightly different muscles to maintain balance than they would while wearing normal shoes, resulting in temporary soreness that will subside as the body adjusts to the shoe.

ACE’s study also raised a couple of questions, one positive the other negative:   will wearing toning shoes improve balance over time? Or do they alter an individual’s walking gait mechanics, potentially causing problems for those who are already at risk for lower-extremity issues?  Evaluating both of these issues would require additional in-depth research.

Or you could talk to one of us in the field.

My peers and I are concerned specifically about:  your Achilles tendon, your plantar fascia, and your hamstrings.   That soreness folks feel just might be their Achillles getting ready to separate from the bone….or not.   If you use these shoes and have any pain, get in touch with a certified personal trainer for an evaluation.

Don’t wait!

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