Can You Wear Toning Shoes While Walking on the Treadmill?


From all the hype, wearing toning shoes on the treadmill seems like a shortcut to a tight and toned butt and strong thighs. The hype, however, comes from manufacturers whose claims are not based in fact. Toning shoes feature an unstable sole said to make walking on stable ground take more effort -- as if you were balancing on a wobble board or walking barefoot on beach sand. A 2010 study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise debunked toning shoes' claims that you can change your body simply by wearing the product. If you like the shoes, you can strap them on for a treadmill workout, but don't expect any butt-shaping miracles.


  • The American Council on Exercise study had participants wear the toning shoes while walking on the treadmill at various speeds and inclines. The researchers found no significant increase in muscle activation or exercise intensity during any of the treadmill sessions during which participants wore the shoes compared to wearing traditional gym shoes. The shoes did not increase perceived exertion, oxygen use or calorie expenditure.

Potential Benefits

  • If your toning shoes inspire you to walk on the treadmill more than your traditional workout shoes, they may do you a favor. Wear them if it helps you to reach or exceed the minimum 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wearing the shoes during a treadmill walk could help reduce pain in the heel and strengthen your ankles and feet. You might also get a boost in your posture, says Dr. Sarah Pritts on the website Phys Org.


  • If the shoes are new for you, take time breaking them in, suggests Gary M. Golub, a podiatrist in Long Beach, N.Y., on WebMD. Keep a pair of your regular shoes nearby and walk just 15 to 30 minutes in them at first. If you feel discomfort, finish your treadmill workout in your regular shoes. Over time, you can build up to longer workouts. If you plan to run on the treadmill, stick to your running shoes, which offer cushioning and support in the places your feet need during pounding.

Potential Risks

  • Toning shoes will increase feelings of instability for people who already feel off-kilter while on the treadmill. The elderly, or anyone else whose balance is challenged, should stick to regular walking or running shoes to avoid falling. Some people also alter their gait while wearing the shoes, which could cause long-term discomfort or injury if worn regularly on the treadmill or anywhere. Eric Heit, head of the podiatry section at Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center, told NBC News that toning shoes cause you to distribute your weight differently when walking, which may result in back or knee pain. Pritts notes that the shoes could also cause injury to the Achilles tendon.

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