The (Unsurprising) Truth About Toning Shoes

[UPDATE: Reebok has reached a deal with the Federal Trade Commission in the US to offer a partial refund to customers who purchased their EasyTone shoes.  Full details here.]

Earlier this year I received an email from researcher Gabriela Tymowski with a link to this article in the National Post, describing Reebok’s new EasyTone clothing line.

Here is how Reebok describes their EasyTone pant:

Fitness never looked so good with the EasyTone Pant – part of our EasyTone Apparel Collection, an innovative performance line that uses resistance technologly [sic]. The unique tightness and placement of resistance technology hugs your thighs. These stylish bottoms can be worn to work out or as everyday clothing. Get moving with EasyTone.

This EasyTone clothing line builds on the success of the EasyTone shoe, which is one of several “toning” shoes which are currently flooding the airwaves, making claims about how the shoes will help give you the legs/bum/life you’ve always wanted.

For example, check out Reebok’s (arguably unsubstantiated) claims in the above poster, or in their EasyTone TV commercial. These ads actually resulted in Reebok getting their wrist slapped by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority, which found that:

Because we considered that we had not seen robust, scientific evidence to support the efficacy claims made in the magazine ad (a) or the TV ad (b), we concluded that the claims had not been substantiated and were therefore misleading

For all the hype, do these toning shoes actually work?

No, they don’t.

I haven’t come across any peer reviewed research on toning shoes (if you have, please send it my way), so this unpublished study from the American Council on Exercise will have to suffice.  The study examined energy expenditure and muscle activation in a group young women while wearing running shoes and while wearing three prominent brands of toning shoes (the Reebok EasyTone, Sketchers Shape-Ups and MBTs).

While walking on the treadmill at 3 miles per hour in normal running shoes, the researchers found that women burned an average of 4.6 calories/minute. In contrast, the women burned 4.5 calories/min while wearing Sketchers and MBTs, and 4.6 calories/min while wearing Reebok EasyTones.  In other words, these toning shoes had no impact whatsoever on caloric expenditure.

What about muscle activation?  Below you can see the level of muscle activation in the bum muscles of the women while wearing running shoes and the three brands of toning shoes (figure source).

As you can see there are only minuscule differences between the groups, which were not statistically significant.  Not very impressive for products that claim to:

Helps tone legs and bum more than regular trainers. Reebok EasyTone with balanced ball inspired technology. Better legs and better bum with every step.

And as always, it’s good to remember that you can never achieve “lean” or “toned”  legs/bum/abs/neck/arms/etc by simply exercising that body part more.  I repeat – body shaping doesn’t work.  The only way to achieve a lean/toned look in any area of your body is to simply have a low amount of body fat. I’m not advocating that, but anything that claims that “product x will make your butt/legs/etc look more toned” is trying to pull a fast one on you.

Hat tip to Gabriela for the link to the EasyTone clothing line, which got me interested in this topic.  I should also mention that this topic has been discussed at length by Christian Finn, and that I came across most of the links in this post through his article on the topic, including the research comparing toning shoes with regular running shoes which I discussed above. If you are interested in this topic then please do check out his excellent post.


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4 Responses to The (Unsurprising) Truth About Toning Shoes

  1. Thanks Travis, good to hear you found the post useful.

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