Toning Shoes…Do they really work?

They are the latest footwear craze—a new way to get in

shape simply by walking or running.  Currently there are many styles and brands of shoes called “toning shoes” available which feature “rocker bottoms” and “pods”.    It all began in the 1990’s when Swiss Engineer Karl Muller found that back pain and arthritis were practically non-existent in the Masai tribe in Africa. Muller developed a totally different shoe.  He based the shoe on walking barefoot on an uneven, soft ground such as sand.   In 1996 the MBT shoe was born.   MBT shoe stands for Masai Barefoot Technology, also known as the “anti-shoe”.

Benefits of Wearing Muscle Toning Shoes

Most toning shoes have a thicker than usual sole.  This sole is also often curved.  The insoles are additionally designed to mold to your individual foot and provide extra cushion.

They increase the use of certain muscle groups that may not be challenged in typical running or walking shoe.  Increasing the use of these specific muscles may result in increased muscle tone over time resulting in toner abs, thighs and buttocks. “It’s important for people to realize that so-called ‘toning’ or ‘fitness’ footwear is not a cure-all that will tone the entire body,” said APMA(American Podiatric Medical Association) President Dr. Kathleen Stone. “Toning shoes should be utilized similar to any other piece of athletic training equipment. This type of footwear should be viewed as an addition to an exercise program, to strengthen and tone certain targeted muscle groups.”

Certain types of toning footwear, such as Reebok’s Easy Tone Reeinspire (above), have been given the APMA”s Seal of Acceptance.

Proper safety should always be considered. Excessive exercise in toning shoes such as walking for very long period of time without a break-in period, could lead to overuse injuries including sprains, Achilles tendinitis, and shin splints.   A person with tight posterior calf muscles or Achilles tendons may not be able to tolerate toning shoes, due to increased strain on these areas.

Before lacing up your first pair follows these helpful hints:


Ease into wear. Wear the shoes for short periods of time in order to adjust to the new style of walking. If you have balance or stability problems, avoid wearing toning footwear.

People with neuropathy (numbness in the feet) should speak to their podiatrist before buying a pair.

Look for the APMA Seal. Several toning footwear products, such as Reebok’s Easy Tone and those made by Grasshoppers, Avia, and Ryka, have been evaluated by the APMA and found to be foot-friendly and carry the APMA seal of acceptance.

Find the right design for you. There are numerous types and brands of toning footwear currently on the market.  They differ in
their construction.  Find a pair that fits your foot comfortably and does not cause you to feel too unstable. Read product packaging.

Remember to stretch. Always remember to stretch especially when preparing to wear toning footwear.

Be wary of claims. APMA has evaluated certain toning products and confirmed that they are beneficial to foot health when paired with good foot care.


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