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Toning Shoes - A Good Fit for People With Arthritis?

Shoe Fads Are Fun Unless They Hurt You

By

Updated July 13, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

If you haven't heard of toning shoes you must not watch television, read magazines, or have visited a shoe department lately. There seem to be advertisements for toning shoes everywhere and the marketing claims are extensive.

What Are Toning Shoes?

Most of us are familiar with Skecher's Shape-Ups but many of the popular shoe brands have their own version of toning shoes. In our fitness-conscious society, it's fair to say toning shoes have become a big hit. It was no small feat for those who marketed toning shoes to grab your attention. Toning shoes aren't inexpensive. A pair of toning shoes can cost $100, plus or minus a few dollars. Shoe manufacturers quickly learned that people will pay a lot for shoes that claim to burn calories and tone muscles while they walk.

It's important to realize that toning shoes were designed for walking, not for running or any other sport. The shoe is designed so that when you take a step, the heel hits the ground first, and the sole of the shoe rocks forward in a fluid movement. The rocking motion allegedly challenges your body to maintain balance and good posture by utilizing muscles you use every day, as well as muscles that are used less frequently. Primarily, manufacturers claim the shoes work the calf, thigh, and buttocks muscles.

Injuries Strike Down the Hype

Interestingly, the American Council on Exercise has concluded that toning shoes do not burn calories or tone muscles any better than good, old-fashioned tennis shoes, based on results from a small study. The study, which was conducted by University of Wisconsin researchers, compared three different toning shoes (Skecher's Shape-Ups, Reebok's EasyTone, and MBT) to New Balance traditional-style running shoes. A dozen physically fit women participated in the study by walking on treadmills to test the shoes.

There also have been reports of people who have been injured while wearing their toning shoes. Reports have been made to SaferProducts.gov, which is a website and database run by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Most injuries have been classified as minor, but others involved broken bones.

Toning Shoes - Appropriate for Arthritis Patients?

If generally healthy and fit people are having problems with toning shoes, that raises the question as to whether toning shoes are an appropriate footwear selection for people with arthritis. People who already have pain, joint deformity, and problems with their gait may want to think twice about toning shoes.

Consumer Reports recommends that people with balance problems, a medical history which includes ankle instability or sprain, neuropathy, arthritis, or back pain should not purchase or wear toning shoes. Even people without those conditions should be cautious when wear toning shoes. If something doesn't feel right, switch back to traditional styles of shoes. Toning shoes are not for everyone. Don't get caught up in the hype. Judge for yourself how you feel walking in toning shoes. Also, consult with your doctor if you have questions about the appropriateness of toning shoes for you.

Note from Carol: Back in the late 1990s, I had ankle fusion surgery. A fusion limits the natural movement of the ankle joint. The surgeon recommended rocker bottom shoes to compensate for the loss of motion. I was not happy with the suggestion. I had no desire to wear shoes that would look "different." Who knew, this many years later, they would be the rage in athletic shoes.

Sources:

Consumer Reports. Toning Shoes -One False Step Can Lead to ER. Orly Avitzur, MD. May 25, 2011.

Consumer Reports. Skecher's Shape-Ups: A Wobbly Experience. Orly Avitzur, MD. August 5, 2010.

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