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Wendy Bumgardner

Should You Wear Toning Shoes When Training for a Half Marathon?

By June 29, 2010

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A reader asks whether she could use toning shoes such as Reebok RunTone shoes or Skechers Shape-Ups for one workout a week during her three months of training for a half marathon, either for doing her toning workout or for a four mile walking workout.

My short answer is that if you wear them for one workout a week and follow all of the product recommendations about first slowly building up the minutes that you wear the shoes, they should be fine to incorporate into your workout routine.

The longer answer is that you need to back off using these shoes if you encounter any back, hip, knee or foot pain other than the minor muscle ache you expect the day after a good workout.

The bottom line is that I definitely caution against wearing these shoes for distance training or actually walking the half marathon.  They are meant for much shorter workouts or for intermittent lifestyle walking, they are not designed to give the proper dynamics for long distance walking or running.

Toning shoes are made to provide an unstable walking/standing surface and to force you to go through a wider range of motion with each step.  Both of these actions will stress your muscles and joints more.  In moderation, that can be a good thing.  But if you have any underlying joint problems, you may end up with pain and possible worsening of your condition.

When you walk a marathon or half marathon, you stress your usual walking muscles to the limit and you end up using muscles you don't normally use just to get you to the finish line.  For that reason, it would be good to incorporate a variety of toning and crosstraining activities into your regular workout week.  Used in moderation for shorter walks, these toning shoes are not a bad idea to provide a little bit of that activity.

Toning shoes can also provide a slightly unstable surface for doing strength training, much like standing on a fitness disk or sitting on a BOSU or exercise ball when you do your arm exercises.  But as with those items, you must pay close attention to posture and body alignment to get the most out of your exercise without giving yourself back pain.  Have a friend or trainer observe you and give you cues to achieve the right posture and lifting form.

I am training for a half marathon and due to knee pain I backed off wearing a pair of toning shoes I have been sent to review.  I don't want to risk making the knee pain worse before my big event in two weeks.

June 29, 2010 at 10:43 am
(1) Linna says:

I would caution against using anything but running shoes to train for a half or any big race. I’m running my first marathon in November for charity, and I would recommend visit a running specialty store to get your gait analyzed so that you can buy the proper footwear that will give the support your feet may need to run or walk such long distances. IMHO, these toning shoes are pointless. If you do any type of exercise, your legs (and body) will become fit and tone; you certainly don’t need any gimmicky footwear.

July 1, 2010 at 9:34 am
(2) Shelly says:

Linna good point about going to a running store. I just did that and they fitted me with a great pair of shoes. I’m not having the knee pain like I was before. And, not only are those toning shoes gimmicky but they are UGLY as well!

July 1, 2010 at 10:21 am
(3) E says:

What about the new running shoes like the “Resistance Runner” being advertised by Skechers, that uses the rocker bottom shoe technology based on the Shape-ups design?

Are these shoes ok to run in for training for races?

July 1, 2010 at 10:48 am
(4) Wendy B says:

E – those would come under the same heading of “toning shoes.” I would use them only for shorter durations and not for any distance training or speed training. I will be trying and reviewing a pair of Skechers they say are designed for running/fitness walking, and from the photo they have a less-tall sole. The big thick sole is an issue for me with most types of toning shoes. They are heavy and if you twist wrong, you can break your ankle (I have several readers who have posted about that happening). Reebok RunTone have flat, flexible soles and still incorporate a less-stable design. I prefer those, but would still only use them as cross training rather than your main race training.

July 1, 2010 at 11:34 am
(5) E says:

Thanks- I’m a guy and use the Skechers Shape-Ups for walks and cross-training as you mention, and like them quite a bit. I think that unless you have some underlying issue, they pose little to no risk- it’s hard for me to believe that people break their ankles. They’re certainly not as high as women’s high heel shoes. I would think that the incidents of people breaking their ankles is lower than that of people who fall off their bikes- and nobody says that bikes are inherently dangerous unless used improperly.

I saw an ad for the new “resistance” running shoes- which talk about incorporating the shape-ups idea into running shoes for running training purposes. I have to admit it has caught my attention.

So bottom line: if you have no underlying health issues (balance, bad ankles, etc.), and use the rocker bottom shoes for fitness walking, what harm if any do they do? And wouldn’t the extra muscle work be beneficial?

Thanks for your time and reply! I appreciate it and your greatly informative site.

July 4, 2010 at 12:50 pm
(6) bob says:


These gimmick shoes are trash. “E” do you work for one of these shoe companies?

I’ve ran all my life, competed in numerous events and I would go near these shoes “get fit quick” advertising.

If you’re trying to prepare for any road race, then find a training plan and stick to it. Put in the work. There are no short cuts.

2010 and people are still buying into the “snake venom” carnival pitch….come on people wake up.

July 5, 2010 at 8:53 am
(7) NT says:

I have used the toning shoes (started with MBTs) to do distance walking. My metatarsal area, the fat pad covering the ball of my feet, is gone and I couldn’t walk in regular running shoes. In 2007 I did a 1/2 marathon (walking) and could hardly finish due to foot pain. I did the next 1/2 marathon with the MBTs and could have walked forever. Would I love to wear regular shoes? Absolutely! Toning shoes keep the impact off the front of my feet.

July 5, 2010 at 3:30 pm
(8) Colin Hart says:

I have had positive reports regarding this type of shoe from people who spend a great deal of time on their feet…..namely, a waitress and nurses.

July 6, 2010 at 10:26 am
(9) E says:

No, I don’t work for one of the companies. That is insulting that you suggested that.

I firmly believe that the toning shoes have helped my workouts. If you don’t agree, that’s fine, but to insult me like that is way out of line.

Laura, do you allow such attacks on here?

July 6, 2010 at 10:28 am
(10) E says:

Sorry, I meant Wend!

Wendy, do you allow attacks like that?

Weird reaction from Bob- perhaps you work for Nike?!

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

I’m not looking for short cuts, whatsoever. if I can utilize a technology that helps me be more effficient, I will.

July 7, 2010 at 1:06 pm
(11) Alia says:

I totally believe the toning shoes can help you. I ran a half marathon and used shape-ups while I had my off days or my resistance training. I could see the difference in my legs and I believe that helped me train for the big race.

October 14, 2013 at 10:29 am
(12) stacy says:

I have ran in cheap toning trainers purchased from lydl For over a year. Never had any heel problems or any running associated health problems and the lydl traiers still look as new on the botyom dispite many 5 and 10k runs over the year! I recently treated myself to very expensive well known brand trainers for my birthday. They weren’t toning shoes and after 1 run am suffering again with my hee
ls. My conclusion is that the way my feet sit in toners is more natural than the way my heel is raised in general trainers with the main impact taken all over the base of my foot not just on my heels. Toning trainers all the way for me.

February 6, 2014 at 5:08 pm
(13) Arnie says:

Hi Wendy & Everyone,
When speaking of distances from a half marathon and up I strongly advise a shoe with good support and cushioning. Not knowing the person we are speaking about in terms of ability,body size, weight, amount of time for training, and is the training indoors or out on the roads with the elements, or in a gym on a tread mill ?
The shoes are important as well as is the training all done gradually in building the body strength to go the distance.
Ask around to gain the knowledge, and you will do well because you have put your first foot forward and intend to make the journey.
Good Luck and lets hear from you on your thoughts just after you cross the finish line.

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