Toning shoes have gotten a lot of press in the last year. From great customer and celebrity testimonials (Julie Benz is know to love NGR Shoes) to some harsher reviews from others (ACE Study doesn't like some toning shoes) there has been no lack of attention for the category.
Do toning shoes work?
The simple answer is "yes", the more complicated "it depends". Why "yes"? There are a multitude of studies that have been done and published by different groups that indicate they work (Skechers provides some here). NGR has done it's own research, is currently conducting two more outside studies, and has all its own people test the shoes and monitor the effects on themselves. Results to date: They work. I can attest to that myself. Then why "it depends"? The truth is that the ultimate benefits come down to you - the user. Like any piece of fitness of equipment, if you use it properly and regularly and combine it with proper eating habits and lifestyle habits you will see results. If you don't make an overall commitment then all bets are off. Fortunately, this is even true for those quick fix solutions like diet pills and that other stuff you shouldn't use. Fitness is always more about lifestyle and these shoes are only an element of this better lifestyle.
What are the different toning shoes and how do they work?
We've been asked this question on numerous occasions so wanted to provide a more complete answer for everyone to have. There are three basic types of toning shoes: Rocker Bottom, Negative Heel, and Weighted.
Rocker Bottom Shoes
Rocker bottom shoes are the most common toning shoes on the market. MBT, Skechers Shape Ups, Reebok EasyTones are all basically rocker bottoms. The idea behind how they work is a little complicated and finds its origins in walking on sand. To simplify the story, the shoes used curved soles to create an "unsteady surface" under the feet. This unsteady surface (like sand) is said to engage your muscles by forcing the wearer to workout to keep balance. In other words, the need to maintain balance creates extra benefits. Does this mean I can use intoxication as a means to workout??? Not quite but there are studies that show these shoes work. The down side of rocker bottoms is that they require getting use to and wearer beware of wearing them at the gym or climbing stairs or any other activity where a stable surface is really important.
Negative Heel Shoes
Negative heel shoes were created in the early 70's by a Canadian company called Roots so have been on the market for quite a while. They operate on the principle of simulating walking uphill by placing the heel of the foot slightly lower than the toes. Although you can't tell by looking at the shoes, the heel actually sits 3-5 degrees below the toes inside the shoe itself. The idea behind this is that when walking uphill your heel is below your toes so if you create this effect in the shoes it will be like walking uphill. This simple technology makes the shoes really easy to use but conversely, probably makes these the least effective of the three in terms of exercise value. Additionally, some people find the leaning back sensation a little uncomfortable when standing around but that's a matter of personal taste.
The idea of adding weight to your routine to increase the benefits has been around at least since the Ancient Greeks. The principle is so simple everyone knows it. Add weight to your activity and it will increase the difficulty thereby increasing the benefits. This is what weighted shoes like NGR Shoes do. NGRs, for example, add between 1.5-3.0 lbs extra per foot so that you carry an extra 3.0-6.0 lbs when walking around and/or exercising. The benefits of this technology is not only that they are exceptionally easy to use (they are essentially normal shoes in every way except for the weight) but that you can use them for many different activities from walking, to stairs, to treadmill, to home exercising, to agility and power drills, to going to the gym. Why? Well they are just like regular running shoes except for the weights so if you feel comfortable doing stairs or burpees in regular shoes, you should be comfortable doing stairs or burpees in shoes with weights in them.
On Equal Footing
That beings said, all these shoes come with common caveats. First, none of these is advisable to wear for running or high-risk activities. Although the weights come out of NGR Shoes which make them okay for higher impact stuff, with the weights in you are limited just like with the other two technologies. The second is that you do have to think and treat these like fitness equipment. That means you have to stay aware that these are not regular shoes and that you have to exert an extra level of care. If your friend asks you to go hiking out of the blue and all you have is your EasyTones, you need to decline. Besides that, which of the three technologies you pick comes down to personal taste and what you want to do with your shoes. Of course, we think NGRs are the best because they are so versatile and easy to use. But we know we're bias... In the end, we think the most important thing is that you consider toning shoes an integral part of your complete healthy and fit lifestyle and get yourself a pair!