You have probably seen people walking around in strange platform-like blocks, called toning shoes. Toning shoes claim to promote weight loss by causing your muscles to work harder to balance you on the unstable toning shoe. Toning shoe makers promise to deliver toned calves, quads, hamstrings, buttocks, back and abs. The makers of toning shoes claim that you can receive the same effects of the stability ball in a shoe.
Science on Toning Shoes
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) put toning shoes to the test and compared them against traditional athletic shoes. Participants exercised on a treadmill targeting the muscle groups that toning shoes claim to target. After measuring muscle activation and energy expenditure, researchers did not find any significant difference in the muscle activation or calories burned with the toning shoes versus the regular athletic shoes. This is true for all major manufacturers of the toning shoes.
Many people claim to “know” that toning shoes are doing their job as evidenced by the soreness felt from the shoe. If you think that this soreness reflects more calories burned or more muscle toning, you should know that slightly different muscle groups are used to support the instability of the shoe, but this effect does not last long after you adjust to the shoe. The same effect is seen in many athletic shoes or any other shoes if you are not used to wearing them.
Just a Regular Shoe
Unfortunately, there is never an easy solution to weight loss and fitness. Toning shoes do not posses any magical powers beyond those that you give them. The power to get fit has to come from you alone. The only power that toning shoes have (if you believe in them) is the power to motivate you to go to the gym. Apart from that (and looking different), toning shoes are not mechanically different and will not produce different fitness results that those obtained from regular athletic shoes.
The long term effects of wearing toning shoes is unknown. Toning shoes tend to be heavier than regular shoes, which might not be a good fit for everyone. What is known is that toning shoes don’t facilitate a natural footstrike, which could potentially cause injuries. Whether or not toning shoes have an effect on balance or biomechanics is also unknown.
If toning shoes motivate you to workout, then they are effective for you. Any positive effect people get from these toning shoes is purely psychological rather than physical. It would be better to spend your money on a couple months of a gym membership (or even a decent pair of athletic shoes) than on toning shoes that not only look silly, but don’t live up to their advertised claims.