Toning shoes

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                      Toning shoes

                he latest women’s sportshoe                                                             • It makes the wearer work their muscles hard-
                trend in the US, toning shoes,       A new cut-out-and-keep series                        er. Some manufacturers go as far as to say
                have experienced dramatic            to assist retailers with product                     that walking a mile in regular running shoes
                growth over the last two years                                                            equals to walking three miles in toning shoes.
                — annual sales grew from $17m                                                           • They can help to improve posture. Posture
                in 2008 to $245m in 2009 — and
                                                     Words: Nelle du Toit. Compiled with the              enthusiasts claim that the correct posture
is still growing massively. According to analysts
                                                     help of Shannon Bouwer of Reebok, John               can instantly make you look 5kg lighter and
                                                     Andrews of New Balance and Werner Pi-                many swear that having a good posture is the
this is the fastest growing trend ever. You can
                                                     eters of Sketchers.                                  only way to achieve a flatter and stronger
therefore expect more and more consumer in-
terest in this shoe category — and you will have                                                          stomach. A good posture is also said to re-
to be prepared to answer the questions they           to balance. The natural reaction is to tighten      lieve upper and lower back problems and
are likely to ask.                                    the abdomen muscles as well as tuck in the          optimizes muscle and organ function which
                                                      tail bone (thus activating buttocks and tum-        increases energy, endurance and vigour.
What are toning shoes                                 my muscles) and in order to maintain that         • The curved or rocker-bottomed soles help to
Toning shoes are sportshoes with an unstable          balance while walking or standing, the upper        reduce pain in the legs if you spend a long
platform (a curved outsole) that forces the           thighs (or glutes) would be activated as well.      time on your feet by cushioning the joints —
wearer to use certain muscle groups in the legs,    • The effect that balancing has on muscles can        the rocking motion of the sole is said to relieve
buttocks and abdomen in order to stabilise his        be demonstrated by asking your customer to          pressure in the ankle, knees and forefoot.
or her gait.                                          stand on one foot and feel how much harder his    • The shoes generate a smooth heel-to-toe mo-
  The shoes therefore provide a workout or            or her body needs to work in order to stay up-      tion for the foot, which creates a more
muscle toning session during daily activities         right or balanced. This is the principle behind     efficient stride. Once the wearer be-
like standing or walking around, doing daily          muscle toning shoes: they force the wearer          comes used to the shoes, he or she would
household chores, visiting the mall, doing un-        to keep balanced while walking on an unsta-         want to wear them for longer periods.
strenuous exercises at the gym, etc.                  ble platform, making the wearer more aware        • The shoes absorb more shock with the thick
                                                      of their posture and strengthening certain          cushioning in the sole.
The target customer                                   muscle groups. When walking, the foot’s nat-      • For many years rocker bottoms have been
• From the totally unfit to the person looking        ural walking gait is altered as the shoes force     used extensively in rehabilitation and pedor-
  to add intensity to their already taxing walk-      a heel-to-toe footstep, with the result that it     thics. These shoes help relieve painful or
  ing routine, these shoes are for anyone look-       feels as if the wearer is walking in soft sand.     disabling conditions in the feet by taking
  ing to increase their fitness level day by day.                                                         strain off the ankle and forefoot as you rock
• If the customer is one of the millions out        Benefits                                              from heel to toe. Pedorthists agree that ton-
  there who claim that they never have time         Toning shoes have a number of benefits for peo-       ing shoes that incorporate a rocker or curved
  to exercise, are looking to exercise harder       ple looking to increase their fitness levels:         sole are beneficial for these conditions.
  while doing normal daily activities, or are       • Fitness experts agree that the more your          • According to the Foot & Ankle Centre of Wash-
  simply looking to improve the way they walk         muscles work during activity or even non-           ington a rocker placed just behind the fore-
  and move during day-to-day activities, these        activity (such as standing) the more calories       foot is very effective at reducing pressure
  shoes could be the one thing they need.             you burn, the more muscles are toned and            under the ball of the foot and reducing
                                                      the less strain is placed bones and joints.         motion in the toe joints. Pedorthists use it
How they work                                         Toning shoes activate muscles not used              to treat big-foot arthritis and ball-of-foot
• Shoes with a curved, or rocker-bottomed             when walking with flat soled shoes, pro-            pain. A heel to toe rocker sole has a rocker
  sole, force the wearer to activate core mus-        viding greater toning to the calves, quad-          on the forefoot and a rocker on the heel.
  cles (around the abdomen and waist) in order        riceps, hamstrings, glutes, hips and abs.           According to the centre it can         To p27

                                                                                                        2010 August/September :: Sports Trader
                                                                                                           Apparel & Footwear :: p27

Product knowledge: Minimalist shoes                                                                      cont.
  more of the impact,” says Tucker. “Your              major benefit during an ultra-marathon.              in minimalistic shoes. If the runner has been
  knees bend, so less impact is absorbed there,        Alternatively, shoes with thicker inserts in-        a heel striker, it will take some time and
  and you take shorter strides. Because you            crease oxygen consumption as the materials           much work to train his body to forefoot or
  take shorter strides the steps are less jar-         used for cushioning in shoes absorb energy.          midfoot strike, especially because he’ll need
  ring, and you achieve more bounce. This, in                                                               to develop stronger feet and calf muscles.
  itself, is a completely different way to train.”   The case for cushioned shoes                         • Runners may be at greater risk of developing
• Some scientists believe that running in mini-      Many runners, however, run long distances with         Achilles tendonitis when they switch from
  malist shoes can help runners who suffer           cushioned running shoes without suffering any          heel striking to forefoot or midfoot striking.
  from previous running injuries, “Minimal-          injuries — but some runners suffer from repeti-        Heel striking is painful when running barefoot
  ist running can be therapeutic as some run-        tive stress injuries.                                  or in minimal shoes as the collision force is
  ners who have an injury and gradually in-          • This does not mean that all runners should           greater each time the foot hits the ground.
  troduce themselves to minimalist running             contemplate discarding their cushioned               Once natural foot structures are weakened
  allow their feet to foot-strike naturally. So,       shoes. “A western runner used to running             by long-term footwear use, people have to
  theoretically, one can perhaps remedy a              with cushioned, supportive shoes, will not           rely on the external support of the footwear.
  non-chronic injury with barefoot/minimal-            adapt easily to barefoot running and they          • People who have been heel strikers most of
  ist running,” remarks Professor Noakes.              would have to teach themselves all over              their life will have to do lots of work to switch
• It strengthens the muscles in the foot, espe-        again how to run barefoot,” explains Noakes.         to forefoot striking.
  cially in the arch. Running minimally pro-         • “It’s not necessarily the shoe that causes         • Novice forefoot and midfoot strikers typically
  motes a stronger foot that pronates less and         injuries, but the training,” says Tucker. “And       experience tired feet, and very stiff and
  is less liable to develop a collapsed arch.          the shoe is the mediator of that training.” You      sore calf muscles. In addition, the Achilles
• Studies show that you use up to 4% less en-          might not train as hard when running barefoot        tendon often gets very stiff. This is normal
  ergy when running with minimalist shoes,             as you would train while wearing cushioned           and eventually goes away, but a person can
  because you use the natural springs in your          soles. “Because you are not training your            make the transition more successfully if you
  foot and calf muscles more to store and              body as hard when running barefoot, it could         only run about 400m-1.5km during the first
  release energy. As less energy is used, oxy-         be less likely for you to pick up an injury.”        week of minimal running and then increase
  gen consumption drops — which can be a             • Some shod runners have problems running              the distance by no more than 10% per week.

Product knowledge: Toning shoes                                                             cont.
  be effective for limiting ankle and midfoot          of rocker-bottom shoes published in peer-            the wearer to walk heel-to-toe and even-
  motion and thus it helps when a patient has          reviewed clinical journals over a period of          tually make the wearer feel like they are
  ankle arthritis.                                     several years, and four clinical studies con-        walking in the sand on the beach. Some
                                                       ducted on Shape-ups by experts. The most             manufacturers have created online train-
Research                                               recent is the November 2009 study by sport           ing video clips to show consumers who have
In order for manufacturers of toning shoes to          physician Dr. Steven Gautreau, D.C., et al,          bought the shoes how to walk correctly in
claim any of the above benefits they had to            involving 80 participants (including a control       the shoes. Emphasis is placed on the wear-
conduct research studies. The reports on some          group) who were studied for eight weeks.             ers’ posture to help stabilize them while
of these can be found at www.toningshoestud-           The study found both Shape-ups wearers               wearing the shoes. The correct posture will                                               and the control group gained strength, but           feel as if their muscles are working harder.
• Reebok had their Easytone shoes tested by            only Shape-ups wearers experienced sig-            • Some manufacturers warn to not wear the
  the University of Delaware using Electro-            nificant weight loss and reduced body fat.           walking shoes while training at the gym or
  myography (EMG) technology. These tests              Earlier research include a study by a lead-          during any high-impact exercise — these shoes
  were conducted over a period of several              ing Southern California hospital and univer-         were made for walking or daily activities
  months and included a cross-section of               sity; a prior trial study by Dr. Gautreau; and       (walking the dog and taking a stroll or doing
  women who were each monitored wearing                a study by Juntendo University in Japan.             household chores). Some manufacturers are,
  regular foam based walking shoes, Easytones        • The American Council on Exercise (ACE) re-           however, launching toning shoes designed to
  and walked barefoot (unshod). These tests            cently announced that they had conduct-              be worn during gym training or for running.
  showed an 11% increase in calf and ham-              ed the first independent research study,           • Manufacturers warn that people with balance
  string muscle activation from regular shoes          in which they found no difference in the             problems or tight Achilles tendons should
  to Easytones and a slight increase from un-          muscle activation of the subjects wear-              take a cautious approach. The American Po-
  shod feet to Easytones. Their butt muscles           ing toning shoes. Toning shoe manufactur-            diatric Medical Association (APMA) warns that
  were activated an alarming 28% more with             ers, however, slammed this study because             toning shoes can put an increased strain on
  Easytones than compared to regular shoes.            they used only 12 volunteers who walked              these body parts. People with pre-existing
• New Balance International has done various           on a treadmill for five minutes. Manufac-            balance or stability problems may want to
  lab and field tests with their Rock and Tone         turers also questioned the independence of           avoid wearing toning footwear altogether.
  toning shoes and have had only positive re-          the ACE as it sells fitness training courses       • Certain manufacturers warn that you should
  sults and feedback. “We are confident that in-       and materials, which would be threatened             not wear the shoes for longer than 10 min-
  creased muscle activation occurs when wear-          by the growing popularity of toning shoes.           utes for the first time and incrementally
  ing our toning footwear. Internal and external                                                            increase wearing time — just as any other
  lab tests were performed to measure muscle         Advice to customers                                    fitness activity would be gradually in-
  activation and calorie burn. While individual      As toning shoes changes the walking gait of the        creased. After the initial 10-minute walk
  results may vary, increases were noted in cer-     wearer, certain guidelines should be followed          increase to 30 minutes on the first day.
  tain muscle groups as compared to traditional      to ensure that the wearer learns to walk prop-         Fatigue in the calves, thighs, hamstrings
  walking shoes,” reports NB International.          erly in these shoes:                                   and core will be felt after the 30-minute
• Skechers say that the Shape-ups studies are        • The customer should practice walking in a            walk. Thereafter, gradually increase the
  consistent with the findings of other studies        different manner. The shoes should force             amount of time spent walking in the shoes.

                                                                                                          2010 August/September :: Sports Trader

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