Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly: Whether you call them rocker shoes, toners, shape-ups, negative heel shoes, the funniest looking shoes you ever saw, or the shoes that saved the workout world, people are wearing them. And we are getting asked often “do they work? Are they worth the money?” “Are they actually helping me get more fit when walking?” We turned to self-appointed experts, ourselves, for a review.
Short answer: if wearing them moves you from “feet in slippers propped on the ottoman” to rocking it in your rockers, then they have value. You believe in them; therefore you walk more; ergo you get more fit. But we have to say that the only research thus far that touts their superpowers is all put out by the shoe manufacturers. Hmmmm. Fun and Fit is having a “suspicious ole’ coot” moment and wants to find out more. If you like lots of detail check out this short article: Shape Up Shoes and Other Negative Heel Wear, If you do not like detail, the general consensus is “the shoes don’t shape you up any more than any shoe or bare feet would.” So save your mega-dollars.
Alexandra: I’ll just say right up front that aesthetically I will never, ever, never like any of these shoes because they remind me too much of the Earth shoes I bought in the 70s. I saved my money for a long time, got on a waiting list (demand way outstripped supply) and finally got my shoes. Guess what? I put them on once, decided they looked horrible on me and never wore them again. Now I see the originals on sale for $135. Guess I should have kept my unworn pair.
Looking past my traumatizing “sexy babe with immensely fat-looking feet” teen experience, let me say that professionally I tend to not like them either. I have a lot of fitness students of all ages, and have heard anecdotaly that the toning shoes have caused or exacerbated issues with balance and hip/knee joint pain. I have not had anyone yet vouch for them though. And we know a lot of podiatrists, chiropractors and biomechanic specialists who are not fans either. I wrote an article about choosing shoes and couldn’t get a single expert to comment favorably on any of the toning shoes. Actually, one of them went so far as to call them “nightmares.”
A direct quote from an unbiased study (meaning the shoe company didn’t fund the study) states: “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.”
How does the study above seem so different from the studies touted by the shoe companies that say toning shoes are almost mystical in their ability to transform your body? One, it could be the type of study conducted– clinical versus normal daily activity (although nothing has yet been done long-term, so it’s almost a moot point); two, there is a big ol’ difference between marketing science and real science. If you’re a really invested consumer, read the studies carefully. However, if you’re not into that plan, it might be best if you try on a pair and walk around the store.
K: Then sit down and take the darn things off your feet! If your goal is to be more toned, have shapelier legs, burn more calories, may I politely suggest DO YOUR DARN WEIGHT TRAINING! Ok, so I politely yelled. Why take yourself away from your body’s natural movement patterns? We keep looking for quick fixes. Instead, learn or relearn how to move in the body you have. Our feet are actually designed to help us walk in the best manner possible.
A: I’m trying to have an open mind (but not open toe) so I’ll mention the advantages. If you wear the shoes and start to walk more and stand up straighter, then the shoes are working because you are now moving the body that’s in those shoes. Are the toning shoes actually the key to lifelong buffness, happiness and a firm, lifted butt? Maybe. And maybe you’re just walking more since you feel so fabulous and groovy in your new shoes!
My final recommendation? If you loved Earth Shoes, you might just be a candidate for toning shoes. Otherwise, it’s way more important to move than it is to spend money on toning shoes.
K: My final recommendation? When the foot experts, medical community and unbiased research say “oy vay, no way; save your mo-nay,” then I am going with that and lacing up my foot slimming, outfit matching, tried and true walking sneakers. Shoe-off!
Readers: What is your opinion or experience with the toning shoes? Did you know there are more than 25 companies that make them?
Photo credits: PhotoBucket and Creative Commons
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: We recently read the book, The Alternative Medicine Cabinet by Kathy Gruver. Before I comment on the book, let me just say that Kathy has her doctorate in traditional naturopathy, plus about 4 other titles. In other words, she be all qualified and suchlike.
Kymberly; We also want to disclose that we know her personally (lucky her, eh?!) and that she is a friend of ours–which could all end now that we are totally unbiased, impartial, unbribable, trustworthy reviewers.
A: Wait a second. I’m totally open to bribes. At first I wondered if this book was going to be what I sometimes refer to as “a co-op book,” meaning full of suggestions to eat stuff I can’t pronounce or can’t imagine eating (disclaimer: I belong to a co-op). In actuality, it is a book that gives information on various non-pharmaceutical, non- invasive ways to improve your own health, with practical advice about treating depression, improving your sleep, using alternative cancer treatments and lots more. My favorite parts were the definitions of the different types of massage, homeopathy, Reiki and medicinal herbs, and the top 10 nutrition picks. And I’ve always wanted an excuse to use the word “tincture” because it’s such a fun word. There are several places where exercise is touted as a medicine so of course I’m going to love this book! Take 2 push-ups and call yourself in the morning.
K: What readers of this book will like are its short, self-contained chapters, conversational tone, and down to earth suggestions. What lovers of great grammar will need is an alternative medicine for the many proofreading and grammar errors. (Read the book to get suggestions for headaches and stress!) Good thing the author is an expert in alternative wellness, not editing. Note to author: hire my sis next time. She a reeel fine editore.
A: I’m giving this book my “headlights up” because it’s comprehensive, informative, well-researched and organized. Um, and mostly because I was able to read it while working out on the treadmill. Actually, I liked it because Gruver doesn’t preach or try to make me grow out my leg hairs and live on a farm; she just shares information that is exceptionally well-documented (I love to have references, but maybe I’m just suspicious). I won’t be trying all the suggestions or concoctions, but luckily that isn’t the point–the point is to get you thinking about your health from a “take charge” perspective that considers and accepts the connection between the mind and the body. As a matter of fact, I just gave my body a salad so that my mind would be proud of myself!
K: When did you get headlights up, Alexandra? Your mind is lying to your body or something like that. I am giving this book a level 4 out of 5 on the Incline Setting. (And yes, I can think of some popular products that get a -4 on the Decline Setting!) Quick read, chock full of easy to implement changes that will help, and gosh darn, we simply like the author and her message.
Photo credits: Creative Commons
Readers: What are some products or services you are wondering about? If you need ideas, watch any insta-fitness infomercial.