Using the anchor of critical thought to examine our world

I admit to being REALLY skeptical of rounded, thick-soled athletic shoes such as Sketchers Shape-ups and Reebok’s EasyTone. I remember the days of Dr. Scholl’s exercise sandals that made my feet hurt (as well as prone to trips and falls) but didn’t do squat for my calf muscles. Do super shoes work?

Here is an article on the Skeptical Inquirer site outlining some consumer actions against the makers of shoes who claim body benefits. Apparently, studies of these specially engineered shoes fell flat:

The burgeoning popularity toning shoes had earlier in 2010 led to a study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), “Will Toning Shoes Really Give You a Better Body?” A series of exercise trials pitted three brands of toning shoes against a pair of standard running shoes. Researchers measured subjects’ “oxygen consumption, heart rate, ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) and caloric expenditure” along with muscle-group activity via electromyography (EMG). They found that “across the board, none of the toning shoes showed statistically significant increases” in any of the measurements, stating decisively that “there is simply no evidence to support the claims that these shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone” through their foot-destabilizing designs. 

Shoe manufacturers have countered with studies of their own but beware of studies funded by manufacturers! They are so easily biased to give them the desired results. This is easy to do with a poorly designed research method.

Is the high price (and ugly fashion statement) worth it if the payoff is perhaps flawed? I’m not buying it.

Update: May 16, 2011 Sketchers is now marketing these shoes for girls age 7 and up. Besides the lack of evidence these special-soled shoes tone the body as they claim, marketing exercise shoes to little girls is a questionable action. Exercise in general is good but saying you need special shoes to do it is ridiculous and smacks of sheer consumer manipulation. This is a clear case of trying to sell some trendy product to a gullible population. I should know – I have a 7 yr old girl. I’ll be damned if I’ll let this teaching moment pass unaddressed…

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Comments on: "Super shoes. Shape-up? Or ship-out?" (1)

  1. TonyaK said:

    I ended up with an expensive pair of this type of shoe over a year ago after receiving a gift certificate to an independently owned shoe store. All I could afford were these (which were on clearance, marked down from $265) or some highly overpriced socks. I went for the ugly shoes out of curiosity.

    I don’t buy for a moment that these provide health benefits, and the “research” information provided by the manufacturer was highly suspect. In addition, I had to stop wearing them on my daily walks after experiencing a calf injury, most likely caused by wearing these shoes.

    The promise of “get ______________ quick/quicker with less effort” is an effective, although typically misleading, ploy to get consumers to buy a product. Back it up with vague statements about research, and people will buy right into it.

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