Toning shoes

You don't have to go very far these days to run into an advertisement for toning shoes. On a recent visit to the store, I noticed almost a fifth of the shoe section was devoted to these types of shoes! It's high time we take a closer look at their design and claims so that you can make an informed decision next time you go shopping.

The first question everyone asks is "Do they work?" A fair question for any device you are shelling out your hard earned money for. Well, let's say they accomplish what they are designed for. These shoes create an unstable surface to walk on and your muscles have to help you maintain balance in addition to walking forward. Over long periods of time these added tasks can increase fatigue and lead to injury. Many of these shoes claim to shape your legs, tighten your abs, and help you become more fit. While these shoes may help to some extent, there is no getting around good old physical activity.

Each brand of shoe accomplishes their toning regime a little differently. A shoe made by Reebok claims to offer the benefit of a balance ball workout in their shoe. This is a prime example of the instability we discussed previously. Other shoes marketed by Sketcher and Fila have pretty strange shape. While it may appear to be a new design, this sole is actually a type of shoe modification used by orthopedists and podiatrists for decades. We have a very technical name for this type of modification, a heel to toe rocker sole. The times when these modifications are required are no laughing matter. Rarely prescribed for health individuals, these shoes are most often used in people who have lost motion at the ankle and middle of the foot. This type of sole is thickest in the middle causing a decrease in the forces of the heel striking the ground and increasing propulsion as the toes leave the ground. Pain, such as it associated with arthritis, is another place to allow the shoe to perform the motion that the ankle and foot should do. Eliminating or limiting the natural motion of the foot and ankle in a healthy individual can emphasize some muscle groups but cause problems in others.

We hope to have given you enough information for you to make an informed choice your next visit to the shoe store. You should always remember to ‘ease' your way into any new footwear or orthoses. Start with limited wear, increasing slowly as time progresses. Until next time keep those feet healthy and happy Austin!

Dr. Craig H. Thomajan, DPM, FACFAS, FAENS
Founder and Managing Partner of Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists
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