Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pondering Toning Shoes?

Walk into any shoe store in the athletic area and you'll be bombarded with these odd looking rocker shoes. What are they? Do they really work? Should you spend all that money?
The claims made by athletic shoe companies (especially Sketchers and Reebok) include: Tone your legs! Strengthen your core! Improve your posture! Some of these claims may be right on the money, but before you put down the big bucks (at least $100 or more) for the newest fad in shoes, you may want to have more information. 
There are actually several different types of shoes that may employ some instability or a rocking motion: 
  • Toning shoes may look odd but utilize various designs to force the core muscles in your body to work harder to obtain balance.
  • Mild rocker shoes are not meant to improve posture or balance. They reduce strain on the heel and toes by allowing you to roll normally with each step. 
  • Unstable rockers have an unstable heel designed to force you to change your center of gravity and posture and stand up straighter. 
  • Stable and medical rockers are great for reducing certain motion in the toe joints or off-loading pressure from a particular area of the foot. These are mainly prescribed by podiatrists to treat arthritis or pain in the ball of the foot, diabetes, and plantar fasciitis. They also may be prescribed for use after surgical procedures. 
The original rocker bottom shoes were designed by a Swiss engineer and were called MBT, for Masai Barefoot Technology. The shoes were designed to mimic the rolling motion from heel to toe that the Masai people typically have in their barefoot gait. Once MBT's caught on, other shoe companies followed with their own toning footwear. In fact, toning shoes are the fastest growing shoe category since the 1970's. 
Rocker bottom and toning shoes can change your walking or standing posture. They can change how you walk, and the muscles of the body adjust and compensate. Because you will be using new muscles, your podiatrist might recommend that you wear these shoes for shorter walks or on alternating days for cross training. In some patients, rocker bottom shoes can cause injuries such as Achilles tendonitis or ankle sprains. But in others, the slight adjustment in gait can help tone and strengthen muscles. However, it is important to remember that anyone who already has an unstable gait should be very cautious about using these types of shoes.
Most doctors agree that if these shoes can get people motivated to walk, thereby improving their health and fitness, they are worth the money. However, make sure to check with your podiatrist, who can recommend the best shoe for you for any activity. Also, be sure to start wearing them in gradually, and stop immediately if any pain or discomfort develops.
A number of toning shoes, sandals, and boots have been granted the American Podiatric Medical Association's Seal of Acceptance. Brands that have gotten the Seal include:
  • AVIA
  • Ryka
  • FitFlop Limited
  • Keds
  • Reebok
Connecticut Foot Care Centers
Podiatrists in CT
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