Do Toning Shoes Work?

Joe Montana should toss his Shape-Ups into the trash.

Toning shoes make a lot of promises – like burning more calories, improving posture and toning muscles – but do they actually work? Many of toning shoe brands point to studies that allegedly “prove” real results; unfortunately, these studies are commissioned by the various sneaker brands – and are not peer reviewed.

To settled the debate, the American Council on Exercise recently commissioned a study to review three of the most popular toning shoe brands: MBT ($245), Sketcher’s Shape-Ups ($110 – $125), and Reebok EasyTone ($100 – $125).

So, do toning shoes actually work? In short, no. According to the study:

Across the board, none of the toning shoes showed statistically significant increases in either exercise response or muscle activation during any of the treadmill trials. There is simply no evidence to support the claims that these shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone.

See the below chart for detailed findings:

Despite the findings, many toning shoe enthusiasts believe that the sneakers are making a difference. The study’s authors took this anecdotal evidence into consideration:

[Toning shoes] feel different, and that’s why when people first wear them they’re probably going to be sore because you’re using different muscles. But if you wear any sort of abnormal shoes that you’re not used to wearing, your muscles are going to get sore. Is that going to translate into toning your butt, hamstrings and calves? Nope. Your body is just going to get used to it.

Researchers also expressed concern for the longer-term impacts of toning shoes on the people that wear them. Since the toning shoes essentially make an uneven and unbalanced walking surface, issues and complications may develop down the road. But longer-term studies will be required to make any conclusions.

Really, the toning shoes are just the latest in our never-ending quest for an exercise magic bullet. Whether it’s a pill, an electronic ab stimulator belt (remember those?) or a pair of toning shoes – there’s no quick fix. Getting into shape requires energy and effort.

The verdict: Instead of investing $100+ into a pair of toning shoes, buy a good pair of running or training shoes and hit the gym!

About Davey Wavey

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  1. My boyfriend bought a pair of shape-ups about 6 months ago, and swears by them. He says that his ass feels more firm, which I think so too, and that he is getting more of a work out. I have always been skeptical of them, and cannot wait to show him this articular. Thanks Davey!!!

    • Brian Connor says:

      Technically, they may not “work”, but they are extremely comfortable. If based on that fact alone they get more people to get out and exercise, than what’s the harm?

  2. Colin Mackay says:

    Is there any harm in wearing them in rotation with other shoes? If all they do is work other sets of muscles that you’re not used to working then surely wearing them now and again will help tone a few muscles that don’t normally get worked.

    However, I’m not an expert and I know that they don’t help much with balance. Both myself and my bf (we have the Sketchers Shape Ups) have fallen over on these shoes more frequently than other shoes.

  3. christopher says:

    this is something to be explored-i can try this-in the meantime i will keep using my Adidas Trainers.

  4. I brought a pair of sketchers, oh… about 15 years ago, shortly after they first came out. They were the most uncomfortable pair of shoes I ever wore in my life. I don’t know what advances the shoe company has made in the quality of its product since then, but I can tell you I’ll never buy another pair. I can’t believe the company is still in business, let alone listed on an exchange.

  5. Vladimir Horvath says:

    well i dont know about this, cause im in the US ARMY and i use toe shoes (which i guess are classified as toner shoes) and they have worked to tone the muscles in my calves as well as have helped my so far in training my body to move faster during physical fitness tests.

  6. idiotgear says:

    barefoot or minimalist is much better alternative. also i tried some mbt’s and being 6′ 1″ It made me look like frankenstein.