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Sept. 29, 2011 - Related lawsuit: Reebok Agrees to $25 Million Settlement in Refunds for "toning shoes"
Even though they're ugly, Skechers Shape-ups shoes are flying off the shelves. Like many folks who have commented on this review, I enjoyed mine initially, but less than a year after purchase, I am chucking them into the trash.
It’s the magic bullet pitch - “Get fit without stepping foot in a gym.” Claims include “toning” butt and legs and reducing cellulite. It’s the stuff of marketing magic, gimmicks and fads, and if executed well, as the Skechers campaign is, buckets of cash are made overnight. No one waits for a clinical trial; speaking of which, Skechers, are there any plans for one?
No one was more surprised that I bought a pair than I was. When I was faced with the front-and-center display in a shoe store, I just had to try them. I liked them instantly because they were fun. They turn walking into a carnival ride. The extremely thick outsoles are arced on the bottom, like rockers on a rocking chair, leading you into a rolling heel-to-toe gait. When the ball of the foot contacts the ground, you can pull at the ground and push off the toe. As a recent study points out, walking heel to toe is generally not good for us, because of the impact concentrated on the heel. However, the thick rubber Shape-ups outsoles are effective shock absorbers, providing superb cushioning to joints, especially on concrete.
They increase the range of motion in the foot and ankle, which does recruit more muscle fibers than walking in flat-bottomed shoes. Springing onto my toes gets my calves contracting. After my first walk in these, I felt it a bit in my hamstrings and calves, but only the first time. The arced soles add a bit of momentum to my stride, enticing me to walk faster, and popping me up and down more. I also like that when I'm standing still, I can rock back and forth, and rocking onto my heels aligns my spine for that moment, keeping with the theory behind Earthshoes, which feels good. All this extra movement does burn calories, probably akin to fidgeting.
I got a pair because they're fun. But that’s not why Skechers says you should buy them. Skechers says you should want them because they’re a shortcut to body sculpting, but nothing’s changed about getting in shape: there are no shortcuts. Walking is terrific exercise. If these shoes inspire you to walk more, that may help motivate you to walk. But if you want to build a shapely backside and legs, it takes more than walking. You still have to squat down and pick up something heavy. Whatever form appeals to you – weight training, flipping tires, Pilates, weightlifting, etc. – that’s what you have to do, and do it consistently and intensely. And it's true that you don't have to step foot in a gym, but that's a tirade for another time.
Podiatrists are having varied reactions to Shape-ups. Some actually recommend them for certain types of back problems. Many fear that people will topple over because of the thick soles and the lack of ankle support. That one's likely to get ignored by all but insurance companies and injury lawyers. After all, high heels are still around. But these are designed for even surfaces only, and could quickly become dangerous on uneven surfaces such as the great outdoors.
My concern along the lines of podiatry is that the footbed provides no structure, so if you have issues like hyperpronation or supination, these shoes could be very bad. Furthermore, the soft, deep footbed leaves all the joints balancing on it unsupported, which spells trouble for any existing issues with foot, ankle, knee and hip joints. I have a kinky knee, and I reach for my neoprene brace for walks in these shoes. Because of these issues, these shoes cannot be worn for long periods and should absolutely not become your everyday footwear. These are gimmicky, and that's okay; gimmicks can be fun diversions, but only buy these for frivolity. I don't want to wear them too often. Who wants to be on soft, bouncy, unstable surfaces all the time? After a quick stint in them, I was always relieved to go back to hard-soled shoes or boots, or most of all, go barefoot or wear my Vibram Five Fingers (That's right. That's for another review.).
The longer I've owned them, the less I've wanted to wear them. It got to the point that I just grimaced at the idea of wearing them. Less than a year after purchase, I threw mine out.
The great irony of these shoes is they are marketed for fitness improvement, but they can only be worn by people who are reasonably fit. Look at the ads - models appear reasonably healthy and fit for the average Jane Jr. People who are very overweight should not wear them because they'll slide all over them. The more overweight a person is, the worse it will be, to the point that they could indeed topple over. People with balance issues, joint problems or bone density issues should not wear these.
Because they are marketed as a fitness-oriented shoe, people often ask me if these can be used for running or playing sports. No. These are walking shoes only.
If you’re considering buying Shape-ups, there’s a lot to think about. For me, it’s a specific shoe. Because I liked the fun of walking in them initially, I chose to ignore the pronation exacerbation, address my knee issue, and use them for taking occasional walks on hard, level surfaces when I wanted a little bouncy fun. But finally that wore off, and then they just drove me nuts, and I reached instead for my "real shoes."
Here I get in a few words about them on local TV.
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