The Workout Shoe Rip-Off

Once Air Jordans debuted in the mid-80s, sneakers became a fashion statement, rather than just a utilitarian accessory that keeps you comfortable when you are active. And, once you hear that word “fashion” you start to see dollar signs.

Ever since the those early days of sneaker fashion, it is now not only not shocking, but an expected part of the purchasing process that your shoes will cost $100, or more.

Before the Air Jordan, all basketball shoes were white. Now shoes geared towards an active clientele are often every color in the rainbow, and shaped in gimmicky ways to increase the product’s profile, and hopefully sales.

The latest gimmick in fitness shoes is the “toning” shoe. There are several on the market, including Reebok’s EasyTone, and Skechers’ Shape-Ups. The shoes come with curved-soles which are supposed to tone the rest of the body just by using them as you would any other walking shoe.

There are a couple problems, though.

For one, they cost up to $130. Secondly, some experts are pointing out a fatal flaw: they don’t work.

“They mostly affect the foot and ankle,” says Dr. Michael Ross, director of Rothman Institute’s Sports Performance Lab, whose clients include the professional sports teams in Philadelphia, including the Eagles, Phillies and Flyers. “There is no evidence they will help you tone better or quicker than a regular shoe.”

But, when a trend gets enough traction, facts may not get in the way of big-time sales numbers. According to market researcher NPD, sales for the shoes grew to $245 million in 2021.

If you don’t want to pay so much for a shoe that is backed by shaky claims, buy a pair of shoes that are about a third of the price, and get fit the old-fashioned way: with exercise.

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