Guest Blogger: Toning Shoes – Fact or Fiction?

Posted: April 30, 2011 in Fitness/Exercise, Guest Blogger
Jean-Luc Boissonneault

Jean-Luc Boissonneault

Here are the claims:

“Burn more calories, tone muscles, improve posture, and reduce joint stress.”
Train muscles your trainers never knew you had.”
It’s the shoe proven to work your hamstrings, calves and tone your butt…just by walking.”

A team of exercise scientists from the University of Wisconsin meticulously designed a study to evaluate the muscle activation while subjects walked in traditional athletic shoes and the new popular toning shoes. The researchers used electromyography (EMG) to record muscle activity in six muscle areas: calf, quads, hamstrings, buttocks, back, and abs.  The result of this study revealed that none of the toning shoes showed statistically significant increases in muscle activation. In other words, there was no evidence to support the claims that these shoes indeed help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories, or improve muscle strength and tone.

Scientifically designed studies are good, but people who wear these toning shoes and blog about them, maintain that their muscles get sore and therefore, the shoes must be working.  On closer inspection of these shoes, one will notice the construction – an inch worth of cushioning and a curved bottom.  When you first put on these shoes, your gait will definitely feel different and previously under-used muscles may come into play. This is probably the cause of the muscle soreness.

Although these toning shoes may not deliver on the advertised claims, there are at least two benefits to wearing these shoes: 1) these shoes could improve the wearer’s balance (more research is required); and 2) these shoes may serve as a bit of a motivator to get inactive individuals moving. If you want to add to your walking workout, carry a pair of hand weights and pump your arms as you walk.  This will boost the intensity of your workout, tone muscles and burn extra calories in the process. If you want to take it one step further, wear a weighted vest (up to 10% of your total bodyweight). If you decide to use weights, take it easy; start slowly with light weights (1 to 3 pounds) so that you do not put undue stress on your elbows and other joints.

Now, go put on your shoes and take a walk…

Make sure to check out Jean-Luc’s blog at or his new website at


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