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Off Your Rocker Shoe Review For You

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Welcome to the second in our new Thursday series offering reviews of fitness Products and Services, and inspirational stories of People. Do you have a successful exercise story to share? How about a product you’d like us to comment on (sure, it can be your own, but it better be right for our readers or we’ll get twisted and snarky). Today we look at rocker shoes as this remains one of the most popular questions we get in person in our hither and yon adventures.

A Shoe-in or Shoe-Off?


Shape Ups, Rockers, Skechers, Shoes



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.


Wow. Earth Shoes

Okay, I admit to owning a pair in the 70s


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.

Hippie shoes for hippies in hippie vans

Wearing Earth Shoes did This to People


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.

Use your feet. Walk.

Start with your feet. Let them move your body. You'll get toned.


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

About Fun and Fit

Get practical exercise advice, your fitness questions answered, and cutting edge health edu-tainment that is accessible and doable from long time fitness experts, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA. We have taught on land, sea, and airwaves for 3 decades on 4 continents. From writing to speaking, emceeing to hosting a radio show, reviewing products to teaching classes, we believe that little steps turn into big paths. Move a little more than the day before. FitFluential Ambassadors and award-winners both online and off.

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12 Responses to Off Your Rocker Shoe Review For You

  1. Dave@Surf Shoes March 10, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    A guy I work with has those Reebok Zigtech shoes. I really don’t like the look but he swears by them after walking for about a hour into work. He’s also quite short so they make him a lot taller. I suppose people will get used to this types of shoe at some point but at the moment I can’t imagine myself buying a pair because they just look too clunky. I doubt these “toning” shoes actually make you fitter although they probably help with muscle activation whereby they strengthen the ankles in a similar way to a wobble board.

    • AlexandraFunFit March 25, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

      So true, but then, we think it might be better to do the wobble board then and move the ankles through more planes of motion. My university surfing and boarding students love the wobble boards, but the toning shoes – hack, cough.
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..Drinks to Your Health – A Beverage ReviewMy Profile

  2. Amanda Vogel March 10, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    I’ve also read the research saying those shoes don’t really work for any significant toning, and I am not surprised. But I am curious as to what they feel like to wear. They look like boats. And when I imagine myself walking in them, it’s not pretty.

    It’s interesting that these platform-style shoes are a trend at the same time that barefoot exercise is becoming more prevalent. The shoes seem as far away from connecting your feet to terrain as you can get.

    Thanks for the delightful review.


  3. Sara Lewis March 13, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    I thought the ACE-funded study about the toning shoes was a good one to show that the shoes do not live up to the manufacturers claims. A lady wore the Sketchers version in one of my classes and had serious trouble balancing.
    Sara Lewis recently posted..What We Can Learn From Weight WatchersMy Profile

    • AlexandraFunFit March 25, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

      Yes, some of our older students ended up with hip issues they directly linked to the toners. We are not claiming a cause and effect, yet did notice a consistent pattern. Some say the ACE study was a controlled, in-studio study, yet I think it was fairly thorough.
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..Drinks to Your Health – A Beverage ReviewMy Profile

  4. Brian Perkins March 25, 2011 at 2:19 am #

    Like most people, I have been seeing a ton of advertising on these shoes recently. I’ve been wondering if they really work or not, so I appreciate all of the good info in this post!

  5. Steve Ferrusi March 25, 2011 at 5:36 am #

    If the shoes were only as effective as your writing. Very fun and interesting. Love your site. Keep up the good work. One of my favorites. Look forward to more. Thanks

  6. Gemini July 27, 2013 at 5:35 am #

    These shoes are very comfortable, IMO. I had my doubts going in, but I love them. Since I stand and walk throughout my shifts at work, I need shoes that feel good. Toning shoes are the best I’ve found. My feet are no longer sore during or after my work day. I couldn’t care less about the other supposed health benefits. As long as my feet come out of it well, I’ll wear whatever works for me. And toning shoes do the job so much better than regular shoes.


  1. The Buzz in the Hive – Episode 19 - March 11, 2011

    […] dvd – Ripped in 30Kymberly and Alexandra of Fun and Fit hold back no punches in their review of Rocker Shoes – ie MBTs, Skechers Shape-Ups, etcand finally, yours truly from Health Habits uncovered a […]

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