Well-balanced article from the NYTimes today on "Toning Shoes"- SketchUps, FitFlops, etc.
The idea behind these shoes is that due to their unique shape, they somehow fire the leg muscles more than regular shoes, therefore toning the posterior chain. (In particular, the posterior). Literally millions of dollars are spent on marketing these shoes - Joe Montana, KimKar, and other celebs are in on it.
Problem is, they don't work. Dr. John Mercer, a professor of biomechanics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, was curious because a friend who owns a running store sold a bunch of them, but was uneasy because he wasn't sure if they worked:
"But as it turned out, according to results presented in June at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, muscle activation and oxygen consumption were almost identical whether the women wore walking shoes or Shape-ups."
.... Dr. Mercer’s study joins a small but growing body of science about toning shoes, much of which does not support the makers’ claims. A study conducted last year by exercise physiologists at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, for instance, found that muscle activation and calorie burning did not change whether people wore ordinary athletic shoes or any of three different models of toning shoes. “There is simply no evidence to support the claims that these shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone,” the authors concluded."
To me this comes under the heading of, "There Are No Free Rides". If there was a free ride that actually worked (in terms of anything we might want in the fitness realm - fat loss, weight loss, more muscle, etc) the demand for it would be such that it would be worth going through the Food and Drug Administration's rigorous, expensive process of examination so that you could actually make a claim about it's effectiveness. If you'll notice, most anything that makes claims about the effects it has on your health quickly acknowledges that those claims have not been verified by the FDA. Which means they haven't really been verified by anyone, at least not anyone with any neutrality.
The value of any one product that actually did something like this - burned fat without effort, for example, would be so huge, even if the effect was modest , that it would be a blockbuster. (Remember Alli? ) If a product has not been submitted to the FDA for review, it's a sure sign that the maker is pretty sure that it doesn't definitively work.
The search for free rides is ongoing and is likely never to end, because there seems to be something in human nature that loves the idea of something for nothing.
Be critical of free rides. As much as we want something for nothing, we also know that intelligent hard work is the only way to get anything done.