Toning Shoes Not Effective for Weight Loss

Summary
Advertisements promote toning shoes as being more beneficial for toning muscles than traditional athletic shoes. People feel that such shoes are effective because different muscles are activated when they are used for the first time, producing muscular soreness. This could be interpreted by users as the muscles being toned. But this study showed that toning shoes have no advantage over regular athletic shoes. People who otherwise avoid exercise using traditional shoes might be encouraged to walk wearing these shoes because of the advertised super toning effect. A user’s gait, however, might be adversely affected in the long term.

Introduction
Specifically designed shoes are said to tone up muscles during training. Catchy advertisements and blogs proclaim the benefits of using these toning shoes while walking. The design of such shoes is based on the concept of an unstable sole. It is claimed that due to the unstable soles, the body needs to find equilibrium during walking. Muscles that are not normally exercised also participate in maintaining this equilibrium, which leads to better toned muscles. The findings of a few scientific studies are also included as evidence by companies that manufacture these shoes. However, these studies are not rigorously designed. The current study was better designed and aimed to verify whether toning shoes were really beneficial.

Methodology
* Two studies were performed, using two types of shoes. One study was done using traditional athletic shoes and the other was done using popular brands of toning shoes.
* In the first study, 12 young females completed 12 sessions of five minutes each, walking on a treadmill. The speed of the walk varied between  3 to 3.5 mph and the gradient varied between zero and five degrees. The participants changed their shoes randomly between both types.
* Each subject’s heart rate, oxygen consumption, caloric expenditure and ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) were monitored.
* In the second study, 12 females completed the same protocol as described above. In this study, the activity of the muscles of the abdomen, back, thigh and calf was monitored by electromyography, during the exercise.

Results
* The average heart rate at 3 mph and zero degree gradient was 94 beats/min, in the study using traditional athletic shoes. The corresponding values were 94 for Skechers toning shoes, 93 for MBT shoes and 96 for EasyTone shoes.
* The average oxygen consumption at 3 mph and zero degree gradient was 14.3 ml/kg/min in the case of regular shoes. The corresponding values were 14.1 for Skechers shoes, 14.1 for MBT shoes and 14.3 for EasyTone shoes.
* The average calories utilized with the exercise rate at 3 mph and zero degree gradient were 4.6 Kcal/min in the case of traditional shoes. The corresponding values were 4.5 for Skechers shoes, 4.5 for MBT shoes and 4.6 for EasyTone shoes.
* The value of RPE at 3 mph and zero degree gradient was 8.0 when using regular athletic shoes. The corresponding values were 8.2 for Skechers shoes, 8.4 for MBT shoes and 7.9 for EasyTone shoes.
* These findings were valid in different experimental conditions using different speeds and gradients.

Shortcomings
This is a short-term study and it was found that toning shoes might be harmful in long-term use, due to the changed walking gait in a user. But they might also potentially improve the user’s balance over time. Long-term training studies need to be carried out before the risks and benefits of using toning shoes are established.

Conclusion
This study found no difference in exercise parameters like oxygen utilization and calories burned between the two scenarios were traditional shoes and toning shoes were used when exercising. The muscle activity tested by electromyography also did not differ significantly between the two groups. Toning shoes use a soft cushion in the soles, which produce an unstable gait during walking. Long-term use might change the walking gait of the user and this could be harmful to him to her. Since toning shoes have no demonstrable advantage over traditional shoes, it is best to use traditional shoes until the long-term safety of toning shoes is established.

For More Information:
Will Toning Shoes Really Give You a Better Body?
By John Porcari, PhD; John Greany, PhD; Exercise and Health Program, University of Wisconsin, La Crosse

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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