Consumer Reports tests Skechers Shape Ups toning shoes

We've all seen the commercials for pricey toning shoes that promise you'll get in shape fast just by walking in them. Sales of toning shoes totaled more than a billion dollars last year--about three times the previous year. Consumer Reports Health looked behind the claims.

The commercials for a variety of toning shoes make it look so easy to get in shape. But, as more people buy them, Consumer Reports medical adviser Dr. Orly Avitzur said she is hearing more frequently about injuries.

Dr. Joel Buchalter, an orthopedic surgeon, said toning shoes are intentionally designed to create instability.

"If you take a patient who is elderly or someone who has a balance issue and you put that shoe on them you're looking for disaster," Dr. Joel Buchalter said.

But even younger people complain of problems, including the physician's assistant in Dr. Buchalter's office who bought some Skechers Shape-Ups. New injury statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission show that even younger people in good physical shape have had problems, some of them serious. Just since March the CPSC has received 35 complaints about toning shoes.

Skechers instructs people to wear the shoes for short periods of time at first to give the body time to adjust. As to the health benefits? The company says two studies it sponsored show improvement in fitness.

But, Dr. Orly Avitzur of Consumer Reports Health, says another study tells a different story.

"An independent study by the American Council on Exercise found no significant difference between exercising in toning sneakers as compared to regular sneakers," Avitzur said.

The bottom line is that the health benefit touted in the commercials is uncertain, but the risk of injury is very real. Consumer Reports Health says if you have any balance or medical problems in your legs and feet, avoid toning shoes altogether.

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