by, Jordana Bieze Foster, Editor
Let’s face it: The words “toning shoes” have the same evocative effect as “Kim Kardashian” or “Jennifer Lopez.” They’re all about the butt.
And that may be fine for Kim and J-Lo. But it’s too bad about the shoes, because they could be about so much more.
In the media and the blogosphere, all the buzz is about whether or not toning shoes do or don’t tone the tush. That’s probably not surprising, given that advertising for the shoes has had the same shapely, singular focus.
Frankly, I’m not particularly convinced by the arguments on either side. Most studies of toning shoes have included small numbers of active young adults, who undoubtedly had less room for improvement than the average person might. This includes the oft-cited American Council on Exercise study that found no significant effect of toning shoes on muscle activation or rate of perceived exertion—a study that seems to have only been published on ACE’s website.
So it’s no shock that these underpowered studies have not reported dramatic effects of toning shoes in the gluteus maximus or anywhere else. But some of those small studies have actually demonstrated statistically significant kinetic and kinematic changes that suggest wearers do have to make an effort to overcome the shoes’ instability (see “Testing toning shoes”).
Not all researchers who study training shoes want to talk about how well their patients fill out their Daisy Dukes. Some of them want to talk about the shoes’ potential for improving balance and reducing stress on the knee. They want to talk about how toning shoes make sedentary patients more active. They want to talk about making people healthier, not just more bootylicious.
When pressed, the shoe manufacturers will acknowledge some of these potential health benefits. But apparently appealing to people’s desire to be healthier doesn’t sell shoes nearly as well as appealing to their desire for a better badonkadonk.
I get that. I can remember as an underdeveloped pre-teen enviously taking note of my curvier classmates and asking my mother what one could do to get a bigger butt. (You’ll notice that I used the term “bigger,” not “better,” so it probably shouldn’t be surprising that my mother’s innocently unhelpful answer was that such people “do a lot of sitting.”)
And truth be told, advertisers have committed far worse sins than capitalizing on these types of body image issues. At least the toning shoe ads are promoting exercise, if indirectly, rather than implying that wearing the shoes while lounging in front of the TV will have the same effect.
But why not take that next step and promote toning shoes as a means to a healthier lifestyle as well as a provocative posterior? For that matter, why not invest in research to explore some of these other benefits in more detail?
We know why: It isn’t just about the butt. It’s also about money.
It seems unlikely that toning shoes are good for only one thing, which may be more than one can say for Kim Kardashian. But we may never know for sure.