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.