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Toner shoes have been dubbed the “World’s Smallest Gym” and are now the fastest growing segment in the footwear industry. Shoe companies claim the shoes’ design tone legs and boost the benefits of walking. With popular spokespeople, including Joe Montana, Wayne Gretzky, Karl Malone, and Kim Kardashian, the toner shoe market tripled last year.

Collectively, shoe manufactures have released more than 60 different toner shoe options. Toner shoes seem to have been accepted by the public as a legitimate way to stay in shape; however, recent studies found substantial risks posed by the footwear.

The American Council on Exercise conducted an independent study that showed “no evidence to support claims that these shoes help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories, or improve muscle strength and tone.” Additional research conducted by the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists support the conclusion that the shoes have minimal toning effect. Professor John Porcari, a sport science specialist at the University of Wisconsin says people mistakenly think the shoes are working because of the pain they feel in their muscles when wearing the shoes. Results like this led to a class-action against the shoe manufacturer New Balance for using deceptive marketing tools concerning toner shoes.

While the shoes’ health benefits may be uncertain, toner shoes certainly do create health risks. Consumer Health Reports recently analyzed a product complaint database and found 36 people who reported injuries associated with toner shoes during just three months in 2011. The number of toning shoe complaints was far greater than any other single type of product. In one report, an individual suffered a broken bone after 45 minutes of wearing the footwear. These injures do not surprise many health care professionals, as toning shoes are designed to create instability. Dr Orly Avitur, the lead physician working with Consumer Health Reports, concluded that anyone with balance issues, back pain, neuropathy or unstable ankles should not wear toner shoes.

However, the toning shoe danger is not limited to individuals with balance issues. Even young people in good shape have reported problems with toner shoes. A test by the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine and American Council on Exercise showed prolonged use can lead to material alteration of individual walking gait mechanics. This is particular concerning considered the industry new marketing campaign targeting preteens.

In a response to the Consumer Health Reports, Skechers, a leading toner shoe manufacture, dismissed the risk and danger to its customers, “Like other shoes that have natural built-in instability, like high heels, or roller blades or roller skates, Shape-Ups are slightly unstable. That’s what gets you the fitness benefit. But you have to follow the instructions. That’s why every box of Shape-Ups comes with written instructions and a video telling you how to use the product.”

All consumers need to be aware the risk of toning shoe injuries, particularly as the curtain is beginning to be rolled back on the type of hidden problems their designs possess. Toning shoe manufacturers, like Skechers, are marketing these shoes as a healthy means to exercise without warning the public of the significant safety problems and dangers of the shoes.

[More on Toner Shoe Injuries]

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(c) Copyright 2011 Brett A. Emison


  1. Gravatar for B GOODMAN

    Hmm. I have been using these type of shoes for a few months, whenever I need to walk more than 15 minutes, because I have bone spurs in the heel, and they take the pressure off the problem areas. Looks like I need to be aware of the balance issues, but I haven't had any pain, have actually experience some relief.

  2. Gravatar for Beth

    I too have plantar fascitis and find that I have no foot pain when wearing these shoes....such a relief!

  3. Gravatar for Crystal Diehl

    I bought these shoes with the impression they would help me, I have flat feet. They didn't help me at all, after wearing them I started to have really bad ankle pain. I no longer wear them because in my opinion I feel they caused my pain and discomfort.I have been to two foot specialists and a orthopedic surgeon because of this pain.I have issues with my ankle now including swelling and the surgeon says I may eventually need surgery ,and attribute this to wearing these shoes.If you have any kind of foot problems I wouldn't risk wearing these shoes.

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