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The athletic specialty shoes known as toners or rocker bottom shoes have long been controversial. Shoe makers have boasted of many health benefits, including Skecher’s “get in shape without setting foot in the gym”. The focus of the controversy has always been on whether these claims can be substantiated and at least two lawsuits have been previously filed over deceptive advertising. [View one lawsuit here]

But now the focus has changed – an Ohio lawsuit by Holly Ward claims that Skechers Shape-Ups have caused serious injury to her hips.

Though previously active, Ms. Ward was interested in the added toning claimed by Skechers and wore the "Shape-Up" shoes for five months, both for walking and during her job as a waitress. At the end of that time something was seriously wrong. A doctor’s visit and MRI showed that both hips, specifically the femoral necks, were fractured.

“The extensive use of these shoes has injured me catastrophically,” Ward said. She ended up with surgery to insert six pins to hold her hips together. Ward’s life now consists of physical rehab and moving about with a walker.

While Skechers Shape-Ups are one of the most well-known names, other brands have quickly followed suit: MBT, Reebok Easy Tone, Cogent, Ryn, Mephisto Sano, Earthshoe, Fitflops, Avia iBurn, Z7, Springboost, Orthaheel, New Balance Rock and Tone , Dansko, Chung Shi, and Champion Pace.

While the Reebok Easy Tone is not considered a true rocker sole shoe, it is designed to be unstable to mimic some of the effects of rocker sole shoes.

According to a USA Today report, shoe analyst Matt Powell of SportsOneSource predicts that sales will explode 400% this year, to more than $1.5 billion. This sudden growth is not surprising considering heavy promotion including Super Bowl ads featuring Kim Kardashian throwing over her personal trainer for her Skecher shoes and targeting men through endorsements by Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana. Couple great marketing with our natural desire to want to get in shape without the work and the appeal of toner shoes is understandable.

The original rocker bottom shoes were clunky, heavy shoes to wear. Now, sleeker, more fashionable shoes are being marketed including flip flops and sandals. While it is understandable that people want more attractive shoes, these newer designs may be even more unstable and cause more injuries.

According to the brochure that accompanies the Skechers Shape-ups brand of toning shoes, "the core of this technology is in the dynamic rolling bottom, soft foam insert under the heel, and the dual density mid-sole. These three elements work together to give you the feeling of walking on soft sand-regardless of the actual surface." Therefore, by design, toning shoes alter gait mechanics and are designed to create instability.

However, many medical specialists have warned of the dangers of these shoes, particularly for consumers with undiagnosed foot problems.

While in a conventional shoe, these problems are minor, but the built in instability of these shoes exacerbates these problems and can lead to serious injuries. The shoes may be particularly dangerous for those with Achilles tendonopathy, Rothbarts Foot and PreClinical Clubfoot Deformity. Also those with transverse plane deformities such as in-toeing or out-toeing will not have normal heel-to-toe transition in these shoes and could potentially be more prone to tripping or falling.

"There’s major risks, especially for adults," said David M. Davidson, national president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. He has treated patients who developed Achilles tendonitis and stress fractures that he suspects were caused by wearing toning shoes. "Creating instability, on adults especially, is not a good thing."

Alison Drury of Louisville can attest to that. She says she broke her right ankle after awkwardly rolling over the outside of her foot during her first mile-long walk in Skechers Shape-ups shoes. "I’m afraid to ever put them on again," Drury says in the USA Today report.

Others absolutely love the shoes. Gregory Johnson of ResourcesforLife said, “I feel that it’s the best shoe in the world and I’m going to wear it, but it is unstable.” In his video review, Johnson presented some strong warnings.

  • The lateral motion of the shoe may make climbing stairs hazardous causing serious falls and injuries.
  • On icy pavement, the shoes would be extremely dangerous since only a small point portion of the sole of the shoe remains in contact with the ground, providing drastically reduced traction.
  • Also, if a person has problems with pronation or supination (walking on the inside or outside of the foot), these problems may be exaggerated by the Skechers Shape-Ups.

The bottom line to all of this is – when you are told you can get more results with less efforts, one should be suspect. You may end up with more than tighter buns and thighs, you might end up with serious injuries.

[More on Toner Shoe Injuries]

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(c) Copyright 2011 Brett A. Emison


  1. Gravatar for lily lamantia

    I bought a pair of the mary jane type sketcher shape ups, I wore them for 20 min a day for 2 weeks, as recommended by the company. I can say that wearing them to work, as a food server for 5-6 hours a shift twice a week, I have had severe pain in my feet calves and lower back, I have trouble walking for nearly 3 days later, and its not the same pain I used to get at the gym. I do not recommend these for working in a fast paced environment, however a job that requires standing only, they may be beneficial. I will be returning my pair since the Mary Jane style are painful and have cause bunions.I hope the pain subsides. They should stress that working in them for several hours could cause damage to muscles especially while wearing them at a strenuous job. If anyone stayed on a treadmill for 5-8 hours would have serious muscle trauma.

  2. Gravatar for Michelle Schlehofer
    Michelle Schlehofer

    I have had the shoes for approximately two months and have severe ankle, knee and hip pain. Sometimes I cant even stand up or take a step when getting up from the couch. I didn't put two and two together. My hips hurt so bad even when I am laying in bed. Trying to sit up is very painful. I noticed some pain about three days after wearing the shoes. I just thought that I was getting the work out. Bt the pain became worst and I have been wearing them constantly because mine are fur lined and I wear them constantly. I have been taking pain releavers daily. I never associated the pain to the shoes until I was at a party this evening and someone noticed my shoes and told me about the artile. Oh my god I wish I would of heard about it sooner and saved myself the pain and suffering that I have been dealing with. Wow, I am still appaled.

  3. Gravatar for Julie Ann Brown

    I love them! I am a full-time professor and have worn them for a year and my heart rate as lowered...They are miracle shoes...

  4. Gravatar for michelle taylor

    I have been wearing sketchers shape ups for 10 months. since december i have been troubled by a lot of hip joint pain.i work full time at a fast pace environment and it was not until i heard about the lady in ohio is when i got worried.sometimes i would get a pinching feeling at my hip area when i would begin to take a step. i have found that stretching helps to relieve some of the pain but it never goes away age 34 i should not be experiencing these kinds of issues in my hips.i will be going to my doctor to have xrays done to see if my injuries similar to holly ward's in ohio. if so i will be contacting her attorney to persue a lawsuit as well.

  5. Gravatar for ruth terry

    i wore skecheers for allmost a year .then i count walk without have so much pain i couldnt been my feet they felt like they where brock i have pain in my hips back and front of legs and feet its like i have snow shoes on and i walk like a 90 year old lady i use to walk all the time now i have a hard time goin food shopping. ruth terry

  6. Gravatar for Julie Ann Brown

    I want to defend both SKETCHER-SHAPE-UPS and MBT'S. I have worn them while teaching for the past year (study abroad with 29 students to Vienna/Prague in July)everyday. Since that time, I no longer have back pain and I have wonderful posture. I used to wear orthotics for my scoliosis before these shoes given to me from my doctor. I have had a significantly reduced heart rate which I directly contribute to these shoes. I could go on and on about how they have changed my life for the better. Sadly, there will always be people who have negatives occur from products (peanut allergies/gym equipment)that are available. I believe a warning on their usage would be a good idea, but to ban them would hurt many of us who have had our lives change for the better. EDUCATION is always the answer and self-responsibility.

  7. Gravatar for Kim

    There should definitely be a warning on these shoes! I only had my Sketchers for 2 weeks and returned them! I bent my ankle twice while wearing them because the are so unstable. But the reason I returned them is I put my back out wearing them! I couldn't walk for a week without extreme pain and a lot of help from my husband! After multiple Doctors visits and my Husband having to take time off from work to care for me and my kids, I was finally able to do some normal activities. They are not for everyone!

  8. Gravatar for robin mcmanaman
    robin mcmanaman

    I received a pair of Sketcher Shape-ups from my husband for this past Christmas; and in the beginning, I thought these were miracle shoes. I am on my feet alot durin the day, and while wearing these, I felt no pain while working. My husband even made a comment that it was shaping up my backside, which was nice to hear. But now, a little more than 3 months later, I am having major pains in my feet that have never been there before.I will be visiting my doctor to find out what the extent of the damage is that these shoes have done. And if I find that it was the shoes that have caused this, I too will be jumping on that lawsuit.

  9. Gravatar for Suzie

    My mom sprained her ankle today while wearing these shoes. She had stepped down two steps and slipped. She went to her doctor's office, where she was advised to get rid of the shoes. She had been told that the clinic has seen quite a few injuries involving the "rocker-sole" style shoe.

  10. Gravatar for Sue

    I've worn them for about a year and a half. At first they felt okay and I saw results in my leg and backside. But in and around October 2010, I started having pain in my hips and legs. Since then, I've stopped wearing the shoes, and I'm getting physical therapy and seeing a chiropractor. Although the pain is starting to ease,I would at least like to get my money back for the shoes.

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