Fitness From a Shoe?

Do shoes really help you get a workout?

Does Reebok have a point with its whole fitness workout-in-a-shoe concept? That’s what their EasyTone walking shoes are all about. Reebok, which is owned by Adidas, certainly has worked up quite a bit of controversy claiming that anyone can wear these shoes, do nothing other than just walk about going about their daily business, and come up with better-toned and suppler legs and a bottom. Seeing that the product comes from Reebok, people certainly have been buying the idea. Reebok hasn’t sold a more successful shoe in years.

What makes Reebok think that this is possible? To begin with, Reebok is hardly alone in trying what it is trying. Skechers has a ShapeUps model that is supposed to help you lose weight, and gain muscle tone. And their Fitflop shoes are supposedly designed to help you work out your calf muscles without actually working your calf muscles out. How exactly do these shoes purport to achieve the fitness workout routines that they promise?

Shoes usually, are all about offering support, and stability. These new shoes try to give you instability. They have curved soles and other design elements involved in their making that make you feel like you are on unstable ground. For instance, Reebok shoes have balance pods. These are little interconnected sacs of air under your toes and your heel. Whichever part of your foot you put pressure on, you get to feel that little balloon under your foot deflate as the air drains into the other chamber. This keeps happening the whole time, as you walk. It is an effect that’s not unlike what it feels like walking on a sandy beach. What this does is, it forces you to use your stabilizing muscles more than you would if you were standing on even ground. And this, they say, gives you a workout. Okay, even if you’re not worried about standing on uneven ground the whole livelong day, does this actually produce the results they claim if you do buy their argument (and their product)?

These shoe companies certainly have their research studies to point to (that they have paid for) that seem to show that in a lab setting, you get a lot more muscle engagement than with ordinary shoes. What they don’t show is, that that sort of muscle engagement can make you fitter. They don’t even show you that your muscles keep engaging themselves this way when you keep wearing these shoes for months. What if your body gets accustomed to the meaningless stimulation and backs out? And more importantly, how valuable is a study that’s done on five people alone? Five people walking a mere 500 steps?

Nevertheless, customers seem happy with these fitness workout shoes. Almost uniformly, people claim that the shoes help them feel more toned. Most importantly, there are no complaints that these shoes actually hurt anyone.

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