Skechers Shape-ups shoes: bouncy fun don't beat squat

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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.

22 comments:

Cam said...

Rocker sole shoes are exploding, and there are a wide variety of offerings available.

Some are designed to be unstable, like Skechers, MBT and Reebok Easy Tones.

Others have much better structure and support like RYN, Finn Comfort and Sano by Mephisto.

I have written an article compaing and contrasting different types of rocker sole shoes:
http://www.totalrelieffootwear.com/all-about-rocker-sole-shoes

Adam said...

My girlfriend decided that she's buy some of these Skechers Shape Up things and to be honest, I don't think they've done a thing for her legs or ass. Running, gym and a healthy diet made all the difference. The simple truth is that there will never be a wonder product that gets you fit for minimal effort. It's about hard work and reward.

You'd think that smeone would come up with a t-shirt for men that allegedly works the abs and pecs simply by sitting on your ass and drinking beer!

Anonymous said...

I bought Skechers Shape Ups and loved them right up to the moment when my foot rolled badly and I broke my ankle. I would not recommend them to anyone. In fact, I'd warn anyone thinking of buying them to keep on shopping. Worst purchase I ever made, shoe-wise.

Anonymous said...

I bought some Skechers Shape Ups for work (I'm a care support worker) and from the beginning I've worn them every day whilst working 20 hours a week. In the evening I didn't want to take them off even when I got home, as my feet never felt tired in them like they normally did and the soles are so spongy and soft.

However after about three months I've noticed that I have pains in my ankles and heels when I take the ShapeUps off, and walking is difficult in bare feet or normal shoes for a while after wearing them; only spongy slippers are comfortable.

I am going to try not to wear my ShapeUps quite so much as I feel that I am becoming dependent on them, and see if this problem resolves itself.

I have toned up a little and lost a pound or two, but that may be due to several factors. But my legs definitely feel as if they have had a workout after I've worn them.

Anonymous said...

I have been wearing my Skechers Shape Ups every day for three months until yesterday, when I rolled my ankle and tweaked my knee - twice! That was enough to scare me and I will be putting them in the trash.

Anonymous said...

ummm i got these i just got a job at a warehouse and like my feet were killing me with my nikes but these are really soft i could care less about my ass and how tone it is i just didnt want my feet to hurt so i ware them for 8 hours a day with no prob but yeah its prolly bs that they do anything for you health wise

Anonymous said...

I just ordered a pair of these, and should be getting them soon. I got the Extended wear that Skechers claims has more support so you can wear them all day. I guess I'll see. I got them to supplement my current workout and diet regimen, and some claim that they helped relieve knee and ankle pain, of which I have both from two previous sprains in my left leg. I hope they were right. If I remember, I'll try to come back and post a better review of them after using them for a few weeks.
-Dan

Anonymous said...

i was relieved from my heel spur with my medical shoes, so i decided to buy Skechers' walking shoes to maintain the arch of my plantar but after 1month the metal ring that connects the velcro part SNAPPED OUT!we'll i never thought it was not that tough enough!

Anonymous said...

if you are fat and no longer a human animal, yes buy them. if you want to walk the way you were supposed to walk. dont buy them

-be human

Anonymous said...

I had been wearing Sketchers for my 12 hour shifts as a nurse. I loved them at first. After a few months I developed painful patellar tendinitis in both knees, and noticed that my bunion had become quite a bit worse. Mine also went into the trash.

Karen O. said...

I bought Skechers Shape Ups last December for a February cruise. While on the cruise my friend noticed I was walking on the inside of my feet while wearing these shoes (I don't normally walk this way), so I tried to force myself to walk on the outside of my feet, but that was very uncomfortable and didn't work. I emailed Skechers after the cruise and they blew me off with a "we use high quality products...if you don't like them return them to the store where you bought them." However, Famous Footwear's return policy is a 30-day, no use only, so I'm out $100 for a really bad pair of shoes. I relegated them to grunt work, but even that didn't work because after several hours on my feet cleaning out a house, both my big toes got very bruised and painful. In the trash these shoes will go.

Anonymous said...

I purchased these shoes to work in, I walk a great deal during my days at a major department store. My purchase has turned out to be a nightmare!!!!. I may, ultimately, loose my job, as a result of an injury, and a workman's comp claim. Do not buy these shoes!!!! They are unsafe!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm not adding anything here because I've bought Shape-Ups, as I haven't purchased any, although I am considering it, but I am researching them before making any decision. The reason for my post, which I have a feeling will get deleted by the originator of this blog, is that, I notice every comment appearing is a negative one. There is not a single post that is contradictory, which leads me to believe, and probably correctly so, that the blogger who wrote the review has deleted any positive and/or contradictory posts.

The Mighty Kat said...

Dear Anonymous,

I assure you and my other gentle readers, this is not the case.
Only a few obvious troll comments have not made the cut. The proportion of negative comments is striking indeed, but this is real. Good luck with your research and purchases.

Anonymous said...

I purchased these shoes 3 months ago.....after I got used to wearing them I went for a walk half the distance I usually walk-3 miles- the next morning I could not get out of bed my knees and muscles in my butt were all knotted. I did not want to blame my Shape Ups but did stop wearing till I was feeling normal....Then I tryed again EXACT same thing. The store refused to refund, I would have donated to charity but I did not want to injure someone else...into the trash they went. $100. down the drain.....

BV said...

I have 3 shape-ups. I bought them after hearing that they are always sold-out in the U.S. I thought this new technology must be effective in helping lose weight and firm-up! I've had mine for a year now and i can attest nothing replaces DIET and EXERCISE. I am a rubber shoes person and this is the first time that i have been injured twice while wearing a rubber shoes. Last year was a shooting pain in my lower back. The other is ruptured veins in my ankle causing swelling and burning pain. I'd recommend to use SHAPE-UPS with caution.

Amethyst said...

I've owned my Shape-ups for a few months now and I won't be giving them up. I do not believe the claims that they make your legs or butt firmer, that is good old fashioned weight-training's job. I have a lunge/squat bubble butt that came from years of lifting moderately heavy weights. These shoes are a joke when it comes to those kind of claims.

My like for the shoe comes from the encouragement to walk outdoors. I have high arches, these are the only shoes that form to support them. I have had a few incidents where I've tripped on a sidewalk crack, or come close to twisting my ankle because these shoes can be awkward. Though I could just be a klutz not paying attention to my direction, or I might be forgetting to actually lift my feet.

If you buy these under the pretense that your butt will defy gravity, you've wasted your money. Nothing replaces strength training.

Anonymous said...

I am obese. I have foot, knee and back problems. Walking, prior to my purchase of my sketchers, was an incredibly painful and exerting process. I don't know about the physics of the shoes, but I can say that my feet do not hurt after wearing them all day long at work (previous to buying them, I could barely walk when I came home, my feet hurt so badly), and when I go out to walk the dog, I can essentially walk twice as far as without them... I know the reviews here are primarily negative. I have been wearing my 'sport' shape ups and my 'extended wear' black leather 'work' shape ups for about 8 months... from my perspective, they are helping me be more active, not less... but that's only one person's experience.

Sayo said...

@Adam

"You'd think that smeone would come up with a t-shirt for men that allegedly works the abs and pecs simply by sitting on your ass and drinking beer"

those actually exist, i saw an infomercial about a vibrating belt that is supposed to do exactly that, as they say, "there is a sucker born every minute"

Anonymous said...

I bought these shoes over a year ago. I wear them to work, I own and manage a fast food restaurant. So I have them on about 45 hours per week. I love them, my back feels great, and I can see the difference.

Anonymous said...

I purchased a pair of mens' shape ups last May 2010. These are by far the best pair of sneakers I've ever owned. I needed innersoles with all the others, nothing is needed with these. THe insides don't break down and the support and feeling of bounciness is great. I can stand on any surface for any length of time without a sore back or feet. The lady that wrote the intial blog is badmouthing them becase she obviously has an agenda relating to "Vibram" shoes. Maybe she even works for them??? I wear these shoes every moment I am not in my work dress shoes. I will never buy anything again but shape ups. Long Live Shape Ups. Let's see if the blog author lets this through...

The Mighty Kat said...

Ah, Vibrams! Thanks for mentioning them. Your check's in the mail. As my gentle readers know, all you will ever find here is my honest opinion, and I am willing to put my name to it.