In today’s fast paced, multi-tasking world, everyone is looking for ways to get in shape with minimal time investment and effort put in. One proposed solution: toning shoes! You’ve seen them around by now. Those funky looking shoes with the extra-thick soles, rounded weirdly, and the person wearing them walking like Bambi on ice. (fast forward to 1:03)
These shoes, while well intended, ultimately do the opposite of what they are designed to do. When you think about “getting in shape,” the overall goal is to get stronger, function better, and be able to do things easier (ie. be more efficient). However, these shoes are designed to make the one skill we do most naturally and easily more challenging and less efficient. Mathematically speaking, walking is one of the most loaded movements we do- in other words, the forces that go through the body during each step are higher than almost any other movement we perform throughout the day. And, if we follow one of the most important principles of motor learning- “the greater the load, the greater the learning”- by wearing these shoes and making walking more work, one is actually teaching the body to move less efficiently and work harder than it should be working for “easy” every-day tasks.
Plus, look at how people walk in these shoes! We did an “undercover” video shoot over the holidays comparing a person’s gait in a normal, minimal sole shoe versus the Reebok Easy-Tone. The videos are very short, since we were trying to be discreet, but just click on replay a few times in a row to get a good look. Watch and compare how the pelvis/low back area, knees, and ankles move in each video.
Video 1 is in regular, minimal soled running shoes.
Video 2 is in the Reebok Easy Tone Shoes.
As you can see in Video 2, if you watch closely, the hips/pelvis have much more vertical mobility with each step (called “shearing”), the knees and ankles collapse, and look at how tense her shoulders and neck are! Sure these shoes make you work harder, and even probably cause increased muscle activity, as they claim in their rebuttal to a study performed by the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse, but at what expense? Working harder doesn’t necessarily translate into working smarter, or more importantly, working right! In fact, in neurology circles, muscle “tone” is actually considered a negative attribute. Tone is hyperactivity of a muscle, where it works in excess and maintains more tension than necessary, which ultimately leads to a weaker and less-functional muscle.
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is! Our aim shouldn’t be to work harder just to work harder and hopefully get a result. Our target is always to work hard, correctly, to allow us to do the things we’d like to do more easily and enjoy them more!

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