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Five essential steps to choosing toning footwear
Jun '10
Shoes that feature “rocker bottoms” and “pods” have become the latest footwear craze -- a new way to get in shape simply by walking or running. Toning footwear, which claims to promote muscle toning using micro-instability, can be found in a variety of brands and designs. While many may be ready to lace up the first pair they find, the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) reminds consumers to be mindful of the footwear products they purchase and to wear them safely.

“It's important for people to realize that so-called 'toning' or 'fitness' footwear is not a cure-all that will tone the entire body,” said APMA President Kathleen Stone, DPM. “Toning shoes should be utilized similar to any other piece of athletic training equipment. This type of footwear should be viewed as an addition to an exercise program, to strengthen and tone certain targeted muscle groups.”

In general, toning footwear is designed to increase the use of certain muscle groups that may not be challenged in typical running or walking shoes. This increased use of specific muscles may result in increased muscle tone over time, similar to the benefits of walking barefoot in sand. However, proper safety should always be considered. Excessive exercise in toning footwear, including walking for extended periods of time without building up a break-in period, could lead to overuse injuries including sprains, Achilles tendinitis and shin splints.

The APMA highly recommends that consumers educate themselves about each specific toning product and what it has been designed for to help avoid injury. Individuals with tight posterior calf muscles or Achilles tendons may not be able to tolerate toning shoes, as they put increased strain on these body parts.

Additionally, keep in mind the following when considering toning shoes as part of your exercise routine:

• Ease into wear. Toning footwear often has a break-in period in order to be worn safely and effectively. All types of toning shoes should first be worn for short periods of time, until the body adjusts to the new style of walking. Those with pre-existing balance or stability problems may want to avoid wearing toning footwear.
• Look for the APMA Seal. Several toning footwear products, such as Reebok's EasyTone and those made by Grasshoppers, Avia, and Ryka, have been evaluated by the APMA and found to be foot-friendly. These products have been granted the APMA's Seal of Acceptance.
• Find the right design for you. There are numerous types and brands of toning footwear currently on the market, including designs created specifically for running or walking only. Since there are differences in how toning shoes are constructed, find a toning shoe that fits the foot comfortably and that does not cause your natural gait to feel too unstable. Read product packaging and description for the manufacturers recommended use.
• Remember to stretch. As with any form of exercise, spend several minutes stretching before and after participating in any type of physical activity -- especially when preparing to wear toning footwear.

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