Is it another Heely’s, another Crocs, or is it another Reebok Freestyle.  That’s the question many in the market are asking as they attempt to assess the long-term upside the the toning footwear category. Excitement around the category was the buzz on the conference calls last week for Foot Locker, Genesco and Brown Shoe Co., the owner of Famous Footwear.

At Famous Footwear, women’s footwear reported out a whopping 18% comp gain, driven by a strong increase in women’s athletics, particularly toning products.

“We built on the robust consumer demand for this category with targeted marketing programs as well as TV and digital ads from our partners. And we are certainly continuing these efforts into 2010, ” said Diane Sullivan, president and COO of Brown Shoe, noting that Skecher’s Super Bowl ad mentioned Famous Footwear.

Sullivan described men’s toning business at Famous Footwear as “small” but “we have seen an increasing momentum in the men’s toning product and we believe this opportunity will continue to grow. “

Asked in the Q&A session asked toning’s long-term potential, Sullivan said the company doesnt see it as a fad.

On Foot Locker’s analyst call, company chairman and CEO Ken Hicks listed toning along with men’s and women;s technical footwear as the  “two important fashion trends emerging for the company. Said Hicks,  “The toning category contributed to the higher sales and is breathing new life into the women’s business. “

Regarding its potential, Hicks said just being a new product and fresh idea will help drive sales in the near term but long-term success will depend on whether the product actually works.

On Genesco’s conference call, Bob Dennis, president and COO, noted that the footwear industry this past season was driven by two categories: women’s boots and toning. And while Journeys capitalized on the strong boot business, the  “chain did participate in the enormous success of the toning category ” and will be testing the waters.

“Going forward, we have decided to move carefully into the toning category, ” said Dennis.  “We are not yet fully convinced that teens have grabbed onto this trend as of yet. However, certain vendors have produced product for spring that we judge to meet more fashion-oriented, and as such, better suited for our customer. Therefore, we will give it a shot. And likewise, we also see the possibility for the category in Shi by Journeys. “

For more on this ubject and much more, look for today’s issue of Sports Executive Weekly or go to for more information.