"Shape Up While You Walk"
"Get In Shape Without Setting Foot In The Gym"
Here we go again. Another 'convenient' fitness fix. The 'toning shoes' profiled here on the front page in Wednesday's USA Today are part of the largest growing segment of the athletic footwear market (90% females) in the US. An unfortunate sign of the times? Yup. People are willing to spend $100-$250 per pair for shoes that most people acknowledge really won't do much for your strength and fitness, in spite of the grand claims made by manufacturers such as Sketchers, Reebok, Avia, New Balance, and MBT. Interestingly, Nike wants no part of this growing footwear trend. I am sure none of my clients or blog readers would even consider these 'toning shoes' as a workout option. However, apparently many people are buying and using these shoes. I even saw a male librarian wearing a pair of the sketchers the other day at the library. They do look Frankensteinesque enough that my six-year old daughter pointed them out.
Now, I am sure you want to know physiologically and biomechanically, do these shoes provide a training effect? The manufactures claim increased leg and hip muscle activation....versus walking in regular shoes. Not that impressive. It is like getting $0.25 raise at work. It's nice, but it isn't going to make you rich.
Walking is not a very demanding activity unless you have been bed-ridden for weeks. You don't activate a lot of your muscle fibers when you walk. So, 111 or 128% of a tiny amount is still a tiny amount. And that is probably what the electromyographic results are showing. If we measured electromyographic activity relative to a heavy squat, lunge, deadlift, or tire pull, they couldn't even be compared on the same graph. Walking, even on unstable surface (which is all these shoes are) doesn't compare to the loading and recruitment you can achieve with even running, let alone proper strength training.
The bigger issue is that people would spend more than $100 on ugly-looking, gimmicky shoes. One hundred dollars will get you a gym membership, or a barbell, or even an hour of my time to teach you a few basic strength-building exercises that are safer and more effective than these shoes. But, they are marketed to women (Say it ain't so Joe Montana, who is a spokeperson for Sketchers), who are always seeking a convenient way to lose weight and 'tone' without having to resort to actual, proven methods, like strength training. Plus, women love to buy shoes, too.
I wonder what would happen if I used a pair of EasyTones while on a BOSU ball? Don't be surprised if you see someone in your gym try the combo in the future. It may even become a new group fitness class!