Are Toning Shoes All Hype and No Results?

Scott & White podiatrist Dr. Devall weighs in on the company’s claims, the technology and how to buy and wear shoes responsibly

These shoes help your jeans fit better, alleviate pain in your back and feet and improve strength and posture. What person doesn’t want all of those things, especially when exercise is a four-letter word? You can tone up without having to step foot in a gym?

Healthy, fit people in the Skechers Shape-ups and Reebok EasyTone commercials show you what your body can look like if you can only afford the hefty cover charge.

But according to Scott & White podiatrist, J. Marshall Devall, DPM, they might be dangerous if used incorrectly.

“The [toning] shoes are extremely unstable in the frontal plane of the foot,” he said. “The sides are too soft and unstable. Older people should especially be careful.”

However, shoemakers say the instability is what makes their shoes work and what gives the consumer the results they desire.


On the Reebok EasyTone’s website, they claim that their shoe contains what they call balance pods that create instability so your body will constantly readjust itself. They also claim that you will get 28 percent more muscle activity in your gluteus maximus and 11 percent more activity in your hamstrings.

Dr. Devall said the unstable technology, like the rocker bottom used in some of the toning shoes, has been around for years.

“We prescribe that type of shoe for people who can’t put pressure on the ball of their feet or have arthritic feet,” he said. “But as for an athletic shoe, you should go out and buy a shoe that’s going to work for your specific foot.”

For his elderly patients, Dr. Devall recommends running shoes.

“Running shoes are more stable,” he said. “The sole is wider than the shoe. This provides great support for elderly people.”

Despite the doctor’s misgivings about the toning shoes, some podiatrists are giving their patients the OK.

A poll conducted by Podiatry Today asked physicians, would you recommend toning shoes to patients? Twenty percent of those polled said they would. And in the September issue of the publication, there was an advertisement for Skechers Shape-ups.

And consumers seem to be happy with the results they are getting from these shoes.

Central Texas resident Cathy Summers said she purchased the Dr. Scholl’s brand of toning shoe and felt relief from a condition that causes severe pain in her heel.

“My niece had purchased the Danskin’s toning shoes so I decided to go to Wal-mart and see if I could find a pair that worked for me,” Summers said. “I tried them on and my heel didn’t hurt at all.”

Dr. Devall believes that some of the hype and good results have come from a sort of placebo effect.

“People believe they’re becoming more active and toned, so therefore they do,” he said. “But there’s nothing in the medical literature to prove it.”

However, the podiatrist understands the lure of the shoes and offers suggestions on how to wear them responsibly.

“If you do purchase some of these toning shoes, be careful,” he said. “Learn how to walk in them. When you buy your shoes, don’t wear them out of the store. Wear them in the house on a clean, hard surface so they are easy to take back if they don’t work for you.”

Below is a guide to the most popular toning shoes available.

  • Dr. Scholl’s Inspire (currently only for women)
    • Price: $70
    • Features:
      • Breathable leather and mesh upper in a sporty sneaker style with a round toe
      • Lace-up front, padded tongue and collar
      • Dri-Lex® moisture-wicking lining with Aegis® anti-microbial treatment
      • Cushioning Dr. Scholl’s® massaging gel insert absorbs schock
      • Rocker bottom rubber traction outsole
  • New Balance Trueblance WW850
    • Price: $89.99
    • Features:
      • Truebalance-balance board technology that encourages muscle activation and calorie burn
      • ABZORB insole for soft underfoot comfort
      • PW-1 Last fits snuggly and comfortably
        • Shoe lasts are the wood or plastic forms a New Balance shoe is constructed around. They provide a unique fit and size profile for women, men and kids.
      • Mesh upper for breathable and supportive fit
  • Reebok EasyTone Reeinspire
    • Price: $ 99.98
    • Features:
      • EastyTone’s pockets of moving air promote micro-instability, helping to improve muscle tone in the glutes, claves and hamstrings.
      • Synthetic/mesh upper, with a running-inspired design, for the ultimate in lightweight breathability.
      • DMX Max enhanced underfoot foam cushioning for lasting comfort.
      • SmoothFit seamless design ensures minimal rub, decreases irritation, specially designed Women’s Specific Last technology ensures a better fit for women’s feet; and a removable antibacterial sockliner accommodates orthotics.
  • Skechers Shape-ups
    • Price:
      • Women’s – $100
      • Men’s – $130
    • Features:
      • Designed to burn more calories, tone muscles, improve posture, and reduce joint stress.

About the author

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Jessa McClure holds a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, where she is currently an adviser for student publications. She has been a writer in the health care field since 2009.

2 thoughts on “Are Toning Shoes All Hype and No Results?”

  1. I’m so glad to read this. I bought a pair of these shoes. I hate them because they hurt my feet and I don’t feel any benefit at all in my legs. Each time I wear them, the arches on my feet hurt and also the top part of my foot. I thought these were great for “everyone” so I wondered why I had a different reaction.

  2. I bought a pair of these and I can’t stand to wear them. They hurt my feet. I don’t feel any benefit in my legs at all but it makes my arches and the top of my feet hurt. I was wondering why “everybody” thought these were so wonderful but I hated them. I was so glad to read this article to know that these shoes are not beneficial for all.

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Are Toning Shoes All Hype and No Results?