Buyer Be-Aware Monday: Toning Shoes

Remember these?!

an example of "minimalist footwear," for sure!

Update: I’m still easing my way into wearing the Vibram Sprints, and so far so good! I can assure you that you DO feel as if you are barefoot: there is absolutely nuttin’ in terms of cushioning between you and the sidewalk (the only surface I’ve worn them on so far)! Since I’ve been wearing my Vibrams and my Nike Frees 99% of the time when I go walking/am out and about, a “regular” pair of running shoes now feels…excessive! As previously discussed, these shoes are not for everyone, but I am transitioning without issue!

The Vibrams aren’t the only shoe phenomenon popular right now. Have you seen any of these?


The Sketchers Shape Ups – perhaps the most widely-known of the brands…they certainly advertise prominently.

Or how about…

Chapa Storm GTX (source)

The MBT Anti-Shoe…

Or even…

Post Icon(source)

The Reebok Easy Tone Go-Outside model

These are all examples of what the shoe industry classifies as “toning shoes.” What do they have in common? (besides being butt-ugly!) – this type of shoe is supposed to tone your glute and leg muscles while you walk. If you raise an eyebrow skeptically, I am with you.

My store carries a version as well:

this is the avia avi-motion shoe

…and here’s what our website says about this shoe:

Avia – AVI-Motion Walking i-Quest


Introducing AVIA’s latest recovery footwear. The iquest makes downtime activity a powerful way of enhancing run training for both the recreational and competitive runner. AVIA’s breakthrough recovery collection uses a variety of advanced features including the Double Rocker midsole that mimics sand-like walking. This promotes muscle activation to the lower extremities.


In the interest of today’s post, I wore these shoes for my three hour shift today.

look like orthopedic grandma shoes...

 Granted, walking around the store is not the same as using them for a power walk, but I figured a couple of hours wear would give me a sense of the shoe.

the heel-to-toe roll is more pronounced than this photo indicates...

The shoe really rolls – you feel like you have the bottoms of a rocking chair on your feet. I did feel taller. When I stood still, my centre of gravity shifted towards the last 2/3 of the shoe. When standing or walking, you need to make a concerted effort to toe-off (all part of the muscle-toning action, I guess). They were NOT uncomfortable. However, I really didn’t feel the urge to try them on a real walk due to the both heaviness of the shoe and that rolling motion (not to mention the quite hideous appearance).

Contrary to what the box states…

can a shoe effectively tone your abs, thighs, calves and glutes??

…I personally did not feel like my muscles were working harder or being conditioned in a new way.

My opinion? Rather than trying to combine walking + lower body muscle strengthening at the same time, keep the activities separate: go for a heart-pumping walk in your regular workout/running shoes THEN add on supplementary strength and conditioning moves to target the glutes, abs, and legs. A bit of extra time, perhaps, but more effective in the long run.

The red-flag scenario would be someone who is new to fitness who reads the advertising and marketing claims, buys the shoes, and wears them for several hours the first time out. I bet this would not lead to happy muscles…just my educated guess!

Toning shoes are big business, though: last year they were worth $1.5 BILLION in sales and the projection this year is for over $2 billion. And all those claims of greatness you see on the various companies’ websites? Independent verification (ie from a neutral source, not from surveys or tests done by a company hired by the shoe manufacturer) have yet to prove them extraordinarily beneficial.

My conclusion? Invest in quality running or walking shoes, walk regularly and purposefully for your cardio fitness, then incorporate 15-30 minutes 2-3  per week of lower body conditioning moves.


In other news!…

B just got back last evening from the Colorado Hike! And while he could not find my peanut butter (boo hoo!), he did have good luck with my gum!

he even snagged some flavours i didn't try in florida!

I should be well-stocked now for a while!

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  • victoriagoetz  On August 22, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    HA! That’s what my pantry looks like! That’s the only gum my trainer let me eat during contest prep!

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