So what’s up with the Shape-Ups?

So what’s up with the claims made by these toning shoes??

I’m sure that you all have seen advertisements for the new rage in footwear…”toning” shoes. Several manufactures such as Shape-Ups by Skechers, MBT shoes, and EasyTones by Reebok have made unsubstantiated claims of increased gluteal activation and improved muscle tone as a result of wearing their products. A recent study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise compared 12 patients walking in “toning” shoes to 12 patients walking in traditional walking shoes. Researchers used electromyography (EMG) to evaluate muscle activity in several muscles of the lower extremity including the calf, quad, hamstrings, glutes, low back paraspinals, and the abdominals. The results indicated that none of the 3 studied brands of “toning” shoes exhibited a statistically significant increase in muscle activation. The researchers concluded that there is “simply no evidence” in their study to substantiate the “toning” claims made my the 3 shoe manufactures.

So why is that some patients feel better in “toning” shoes? These shoes are constructed with a rounded or rocker-bottom sole. This type of sole is designed to allow you to “roll” from one step to the next. It would thereby get you to transition more quickly from heel strike to toe-off and, as a result, decrease the amount of time that you are bearing weight on your midfoot. It would lessen the impact load on an arthritic or painful midfoot. It may also limit the amount of bend that is occurring in a painful or arthritic toe.

And: The heels of these shoes are very soft and may decrease the impact load on a painful heel.

And: Because of the raised apex of the rocker-sole, it feels to some of my patients that they are bearing more pressure against their arches thereby decreasing the weight bearing on the heel and the forefoot.

And, lastly: If you watch someone with “toning” shoes walking from behind, you will notice how their ankles tend to look a little unstable due to the softness of the heel and the rocker-bottom effect. This may predispose the patient with a chronic weak ankle to acute sprains. However, it may also have a positive impact on neurologic retraining ie proprioceptive retraining of the foot and ankle. Pre and post balance testing for “toning” shoe wearers would be an interesting thing to test.

But anyways, “Different strokes for different folks”…just don’t be fooled by the claims.

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