Shoes are news, again. The first time around it was because special shoes were being marketed as exercise machines. Now it's because the shoes might not live up to their billing.
From The New York Times:
Dr. Mercer, a professor of biomechanics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, was talking with a friend who runs an athletic shoe store. The friend told him that customers were coming in and requesting toning shoes, which are soft sneakers, often with a rocker-shaped sole, that promise to exercise and tighten muscles in the calves, thighs and buttocks...
The store owner carried various models of the toning shoes. But, he told Dr. Mercer, he was uncomfortable recommending them to his customers, because he didn’t know if they actually functioned as claimed.
Dr. Mercer didn’t know, either. So he recruited a group of healthy young female students (toning shoes are marketed almost exclusively to women) and had them walk on a treadmill for 10 minutes at a time while wearing, alternately, a walking shoe or a toning shoe — in this case, the Skechers Shape-ups. He and his colleagues attached sensors to the women’s legs to measure the electrical impulses generated as their muscles contracted. They also determined the women’s oxygen consumption, to see if they worked harder and burned more calories with one shoe rather than the other.
But as it turned out, according to results presented in June at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, muscle activation and oxygen consumption were almost identical whether the women wore walking shoes or Shape-ups. The finding “was a little surprising,” Dr. Mercer said, since his volunteers commented that the toning shoes, with their bowed, unstable bottoms, felt different underfoot from the walking shoes. But that difference didn’t change how they moved in the various models, he said.
Dr. Mercer’s study joins a small but growing body of science about toning shoes, much of which does not support the makers’ claims. A study conducted last year by exercise physiologists at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, for instance, found that muscle activation and calorie burning did not change whether people wore ordinary athletic shoes or any of three different models of toning shoes. “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,” the authors concluded.
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