Do toning shoes really tone up your butt?

Posted Feb. 22, 2012, at 9:01 a.m.

Toning shoes are sold under the claim that they actually tone something. Manufacturers say things like, “A beautiful way to reduce body fat.” “The better way to a better butt and legs.” “Get more stares with every step.” (I will assume that the last one is implying people will stare at your body in a good way, not your funny looking shoes.) So, is any of that true?

Well, let’s take a quick look at the evidence:

Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT), the Swiss company that makes MBT toning shoes has a study on their website called “Increased Metabolism while standing with unstable shoe construction.”

Here’s what actually happened: they burned approximately one additional calorie in MBT’s versus running shoes. They had three groups of people “stand calmly” for six minutes in MBT’s, running shoes and in bare feet. When it was over, they observed a 9.3 percent increased in oxygen consumption (energy burned) for the MBT’s vs. the running shoes.

A 9.3 percent increase in calories burned sounds good, but in the real world it means nothing. A 150-pound man would burn slightly less than 11 calories in the above six minutes of “standing calmly.” So if the MBT’s gave him a 10 percent boost, that’s about one calorie. A pound of fat has 3,500 calories in it.

MBT’s only worked “better” in standing. When they had their subjects get out and do some actual exercise – running around a quarter mile track they found, “No increased oxygen consumption (energy burned) was recorded between the MBT and running shoes.”

Last year, The American Counsel on Exercise (ACE) did a study on toning shoes to see if they really do burn extra calories or “increase muscle activation.” (ACE does not sell toning shoes by the way.) They looked at the big three – Sketcher Shape Ups, MBT’s and EasyTone.

Guess what happened? Nothing. They stuck electrodes on people’s thighs, stomachs, butts and lower back to see if these muscles were “activated” and they found that nothing changed. They put people to work with some exercise to see what happened metabolically and they found that nothing changed.

To quote the authors of the study, “There is simply no evidence to support the claims that these shoes (toning shoes) will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone.”

Actually, it turns out that toning shoes might be quite dangerous. Last month, 37 plaintiffs took Sketchers to court in a class action lawsuit for injuries that they think were caused by their toning shoes. Injuries like broken bones and torn ligaments. This is not the first lawsuit of this kind.

The bottom line: If you want to tone up your butt and thighs, then go deadlift, squat and lunge in regular shoes (or barefoot best of all). If you want to feel more burn in your calves, then jump rope. If you want to rev up your metabolism, go do high-intensity interval training. Special shoes are not going to give you a great butt, but deadlifts will.

For the members at my gym, we’ve found that the least amount of shoe possible produces the best and the safest results. For the money it’s hard to beat a pair of low top Chuck Taylors (or their even cheaper knock off versions).

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