The American Council on Exercise (ACE), the organization that certifies fitness professionals, released what it believes is the first independent study on toning shoes. Results showed no evidence to suggest that the shoes help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone.
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. In particular, it explored the effectiveness of popular toning shoes including Skechers Shape-Ups, MBT (Masai Barefoot Technology) and Reebok EasyTone.
“Toning shoes appear to promise a quick-and-easy fitness solution, which we realize people are always looking for,” says ACE's Chief Science Officer Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D. “Unfortunately, these shoes do not deliver the fitness or muscle toning benefits they claim. Our findings demonstrate that toning shoes are not the magic solution consumers were hoping they would be, and simply do not offer any benefits that people cannot reap through walking, running or exercising in traditional athletic shoes.”
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.
Researchers enlisted 12 physically active female volunteers, ages 19 to 24 years, for the exercise response study, during which they completed a dozen five-minute exercise trials of walking on a treadmill while wearing each type of shoe, including the toning sneakers Skechers Shape-Ups, MBT and Reebok's EasyTone, and traditional New Balance running shoes. To evaluate muscle activation, researchers recruited a second group of 12 physically active female volunteers, ages 21 to 27 years, who performed similar five-minute treadmill trials and were measured for muscle activity in six muscle areas: calves, quads, hamstrings, buttocks, back and abs.
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. There was simply no evidence to indicate that the toning shoes offer any enhanced fitness benefits over traditional sneakers, despite studies cited by manufacturers seemingly “proving” the toning shoes' effectiveness.
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.
“There may be one positive effect these shoes offer,” continues Bryant. “The motivation factor. If these shoes are serving as a motivator for individuals to walk or get moving more often, that is a good thing, even if they don't produce the dramatic toning and calorie-burning results people think they are getting.”
Bryant goes on to add that “it is important to note that, based on the results of this study, it appears that consumers can more economically achieve the same results wearing normal running shoes.”
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.
A full summary of the study's findings can be found on ACE's “Get Fit” website, designed to inform, inspire, educate and motivate people to become fit and lead a healthier, more active lifestyle, located at www.acefitness.org/getfit.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE), America's premier certification, education and training organization, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of physical activity and protecting consumers against unsafe and ineffective fitness products and instruction. ACE sponsors university-based exercise science research and is the world's largest nonprofit fitness certifying organization.