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Toning Shoes - Do They Work?

Updated on April 23, 2013

Toning Shoes - A Workout While You Walk

What Are Toning Shoes?

How does the idea of getting a lower body workout without setting foot in the gym appeal to you? It certainly sounds appealing, maybe even too good to be true. However, that's the promise that is being made by an ever increasing range of new exercise shoes - and from a variety of different manufacturers.

They come in a huge range of styles and colours - many of them look nothing like exercise shoes. In fact, there are now so many options and styles available that the new name of toning shoes has been coined to describe them.

With so many different manufacturers producing such a huge variety of shoes, there are wide differences in appearance and construction. However, the common theme running throughout the toning shoes genre seems to be a specially designed sole which is supposed to make the muscles of your legs and butt work harder. Replicating the mechanics of walking on soft sand seems to be a recurring idea, but some ranges also use a theory of imbalance to create extra work for the lower body muscles.

Masai Barefoot Technology Shoes (MBTs)

Masai Barefoot Technology shoes (MBTs) could, quite reasonably, lay claim to being the forerunner of the current crop of so called toning shoes. Karl Muller, a Swiss engineer developed them after he realised that his back pain was lower than normal whilst he was walking barefoot through rice fields in Korea.

Hi did a bit of research and found that the Masai tribesmen of Africa were known for their good posture and had a much lower incidence of back pain than western nations. He then designed the MBT range with a special curved sole which is intended to reproduce the rolling motion you would experience if walking barefoot on soft ground - like sand or lush grass for example.

This is intended to improve posture and minimize jarring when the foot comes into contact with the ground. Users are certainly enthusiastic about the benefits and, although it was not the primary aim when MBTs were being designed, some wearers report toning effects.

Fitflops Sandals, Boots And Clogs

Fitflops were developed in the UK by Marcia Kilgore, an ex-personal fitness trainer who found that she didn't have time to get to the gym or otherwise take exercise. These also have a specially shaped sole, which uses different densities of material in different areas of the sole. In addition to the shape and the materials, Fitflops incorporate something which rejoices in the name of "microwobbleboard" technology - which is supposed to mimic the effect of a balance board such as might be found in many gyms.

Various independent tests at London South Bank University and Salford university in the UK have shown that muscles are active for longer when walking wearing Fitflops than when walking in normal comfort shoes. This means that the lower body muscles do more work and, according to the company's website you get a "workout while you walk".

Originally, Fitflops consisted of a range of flip flop type sandals. However, in response to customer demand, FitFlop boots, clogs and slippers have been added to the range so that you can get your walking workout whatever the time of year and whatever the weather.

Fitflops don't look anything like exercise shoes. They come in a wide variety of styles and colors - so they will probably appeal to anyone who wants to have a trendy shoe that they can wear whilst they go about their daily business.

Skechers Shape Ups Shoes

Skechers Shape Ups shoes use the curved sole theory to simulate walking barefoot on soft ground and increase the amount of muscle activity undertaken by the lower body muscles.

Studies in the USA and Japan have concluded that wearing Shape Ups when you walk can provide a variety of different benefits to wearers including lower body toning, improved posture, reduced joint pain and maybe even cellulite removal. Anecdotal feedback provided by wearers is extremely positive.

The Shape Ups range began as a range of exercise shoes but has since been expanded to include more normal shoes and boots, so that they could be worn in a variety of different situations if that was desirable.

Reebok Easy Tones

Reebok Easy Tones are one of the most recent additions to the rapidly expanding toning shoe market. They are a little different from the previous examples insofar as they don't use the curved sole technique but include special air pods in the soles of the shoes.

These mimic a balance ball and introduce a small amount of imbalance when you walk in them. The idea is that your lower body muscles will try to compensate and will try to regain balance - which means they do extra work.

For the moment at least, the Reebok range looks like exactly what it is - a collection of high tech exercise shoes.

Check out the video below for some more info on EasyTones.

Reebok EasyTones Video Demo


Great - But Do They Work?

It's easy to imagine that a rolling motion when your foot hits the ground would reduce jarring and joint strain. The Fitlops range have been approved by the American Podiatric Medicine Association (APMA) on the basis that they reduce the risk of various foot problems.

Which is not to say that they necessarily provide any lower body toning of course.

It's also possible to imagine that, if your lower body muscles were constantly trying to regain balance, that they would do a little extra work. Maybe it would have a kind of toning effect.

At the end of the day, there's now such a wide range of these shoes that you would be bound to find a style to suit you. Maybe the next time you need a new pair of shoes it would be worth your while to try a pair of these toning shoes. It couldn't do any harm.

It may well be that the real benefit of this type of shoes could be the simple fact that buying a pair encourages you to walk more often!

Toning Shoes Reviewed On The Today Show

What Do You Think?

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    • Thamisgith profile image

      Thamisgith 7 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      Thanks for the feedback BkCreative.

      My wife swears by her Shape Ups. The Fitflops went back (wrong colour). :)

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Oh, yes, they do work. This is know for sure!

      I bought a pair when I was living in S. Korea - a Korean brand. I wear them all through the winter and I have muscles on the side of my calves that I never had before. I am so thrilled at how shapely my legs look. And I am still surprised.

      This type of shoe has also encouraged me to walk differently - in a negative heel fashion and not to come down on my heels which is so shocking to the skeletal system.

      I'm sold.