It is not uncommon for companies to come up with silly products for people to buy. While some of these products may be harmless, others can be potentially dangerous, particularly when they claim to have health benefits. One such product that gained widespread popularity in the late 2000s and early 2010s was the so-called “toning shoes.”
The idea behind toning shoes was simple: by adding an unstable or curved sole to the shoe, the wearer would be forced to engage more muscles and work harder to maintain balance and stability.
The shoes were marketed as a way to make walking a more effective form of exercise, and promised to tone the legs and buttocks while burning extra calories.
In 2007, Skechers introduced its Shape-Ups line of toning shoes, which quickly became a hit with consumers thanks to endorsements from Kim Kardashian. The company’s marketing campaign featured testimonials from satisfied customers who claimed to have lost weight and toned their bodies simply by wearing the shoes.
Likewise, Reebok launched its EasyTone line of shoes in 2009, and claimed to provide a “better butt and legs with every step.” The company even ran ads featuring women wearing toning shoes and workout clothes.
Other companies, including New Balance and Avia, also jumped on the toning shoe bandwagon, offering their own versions of the footwear.
But the scientific evidence behind the claims made by these companies was shaky at best. In 2010, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) conducted a study that found no significant differences in muscle activation or calorie burn between people who wore toning shoes and those who did not.
Another study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2011 found that toning shoes did not significantly increase muscle activation or energy expenditure compared to regular sneakers.
In fact, some experts warned that toning shoes could actually be harmful to users’ health. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research found that wearing toning shoes altered the gait and stride of wearers, which could increase the risk of falls and other injuries.
Other experts cautioned that the unstable sole of the shoes could aggravate existing foot problems, and that the shoes were not suitable for people with balance or mobility issues.
Despite these concerns, toning shoes continued to be popular for several years, with many people convinced that they were a shortcut to a toned and sculpted body. But as the evidence against them mounted, sales began to decline, and today, toning shoes are largely seen as a passing fad.
In fact, the trend for toning shoes may have actually done more harm than good. In 2012, Skechers agreed to pay a $40 million settlement over claims that its advertising for Shape-Ups was misleading and deceptive.
The company had claimed that the shoes could help users burn more calories, improve posture, and reduce the risk of injury, despite the lack of evidence to support these claims.
Reebok suffered a similar fate when it was forced to pay a $25 million settlement over claims that its advertising for EasyTone was false and deceptive. The company had claimed that the shoes could tone the legs and buttocks 28% more than regular sneakers, a claim that was not supported by scientific evidence.
The moral of the story is to be cautious of products that promise extraordinary results with little effort or investment. Always do your research and if you still have doubts, consult with professionals before investing in a product that seems too good to be true.