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5 Things Consumers Should Know About Toning Shoes

Exercise. Fitness. Weight-loss. It is all the rage these days. Everywhere you turn, you are bombarded with the latest fitness trend, the newest fad diet or greatest weight loss miracle. In a society plagued by schedules and time constraints, it seems that we are often looking for the "easy way out". We tend to want "something for nothing" and look for ways to multitask, saving ourselves time and energy. With this trend in our society, it is not surprising that the tone-up shoes have been so successful. Major shoe companies are flooding the market with claims that these "toning" shoes will replace trips to the gym. They claim that simply wearing the shoes will tone areas such as the hips, buttocks, and thighs. These claims are based on the idea that the uneven sole of the shoe creates instability, thus forcing increased muscle activity to maintain balance. The increased muscle activity then results in firmer, more toned hips, buttocks and thighs. While the theory makes sense, there is very little scientifuc evidence to support these claims, and very little research done to verify that the benefits outweigh the risks. As is customary with advertisements, the benefits are portrayed to greatly outweigh the risks, while the risks are barely mentioned. You have likely heard of the recent settlement made by Reebok for $25 million, admitting that they may have made "overhyped advertising claims". While some consumers may have benefited from the "toners", equally as many are complaining about complications and pain that may have come as a result of wearing the toning shoes. Many podiatrists are concerned about the safety of these shoes for many reasons. So before you run out and buy the latest toning footwear, consider these five things.

First, the American Association for Podiatric Sports Medicine states that "Podiatrists and other medical professionals have been prescribing [rocker bottom outsoles] for decades to treat gait problems, foot or ankle pain, arthritic conditions and deformities". [AAPSM] These shoes are prescribed based on medical need and are specially fitted for individuals by trained professionals who know how to custom fit the shoe for the patient and their specific needs. When shoes are being mass produced to a wide range of consumers, specific gait problems, such as in-toeing or out-toeing, are not considered, thus making the shoe potentially problematic for certain consumers. Those with Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciatis, bunions and a myriad of other foot conditions may experience increase in symptoms and pain. Visit with your podiatrist to determine the health of your feet and whether or not you may be a good candidate for the tone up shoes.

Second, shoe gear alteration disturbs weight distribution, thus potentially causing undue stress on specific joints and bones. This can cause stress fractures and other painful injuries. These injuries are not limited to the feet but can manifest in the ankles, knees, hips and even the back.

Third, people with vertigo or instability should not wear these shoes. The shoes create instability with every step, thus causing a momentary loss of instability can increase the likelihood of falls.

Fourth, these shoes are usually heavier than normal shoes and can increase muscle fatigue and soreness. While this may be a benefit to some, it may be detrimental to others, who may not be able to tolerate such strain.

And finally, if you are considering purchasing and wearing these shoes, remember that nothing replaces good, old fashioned diet and exercise. The toning shoes should not be worn to replace typical exercise, which is most successfully done in normal, supportive tennis/athletic shoes.