Toning Shoes

12. May 2011

I feel like the old cliché. “I’m in pretty good shape… for the shape I’m in!” At 57, I guess I’m pretty healthy. My energy’s good, I can still swim a mile in 25 minutes and my weight’s ok, too. I understand I’ll never have the body of a 25 year-old again. But I just can’t get past the loss of my once firm behind!

Seriously! My flat fanny has really got me bugged! I tried on a cute pair of jeans at Macy’s recently. The view from the 3-way mirror was the last straw. I needed help! You see, the sport I love does nothing for my backside. Rough water swimming is great for my back and shoulders, but does nothing to tone my aging bum. (And did I mention I hate squats!)

So I decided to shape up my derriere with a pair of those trendy, new toning shoes. Whether it’s Sketchers “Shape-Ups” or Reebok “EasyTone,” the claims made by the makers of these walking shoes are amazing! Can shoes actually help you burn more calories, eliminate cellulite, curb joint pain and most importantly, tone your butt?!

The answer depends on whom you ask. So-called “rocker” shoes were developed as a specialty shoe for people with diabetes or ankle problems. But they’re increasingly being marketed as toning shoes.

If you’ve never seen them, these shoes have an unstable, strongly curved sole. Walking in them is kind of like exercising on a balance or wobble board in the gym… or barefoot on a sandy beach. Advocates say the instability forces you to use muscles you might not otherwise use, which could lead to weight loss and other health benefits.

It sounded too good to be true, so I did a little digging and found the results of a recent study on toning shoes done by the American Council on Exercise. The San Diego-based agency found rocker shoes don’t help you exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve your muscle strength and tone.

“Toning shoes appear to promise a quick-and-easy fitness solution,” says ACE chief science officer, Cedric X. Bryant, PhD. “Unfortunately, says Bryant, these shoes do not deliver the fitness or muscle-toning benefits they claim.”

The findings are the result of a study performed at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Of the four shoe brands tested, no significant difference was noted compared with traditional athletic shoes.

That said, one possible side effect of these shoes may be the motivation factor. “If these shoes are serving as a motivator for individuals to get people moving more often,” Bryant says, “that’s a good thing.”

So, I guess it’s back to the basics when it comes to a better bum. Maybe I’ll just tone my tush the old-fashioned way… with a few squats and a jog in the soft sand. See you at the beach!

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.