Wouldn’t it be great if you could tone up your legs and bum without having to resort to endless lunges and squats?
Well, that is exactly the promise of the “gym on your feet” physiological footwear currently flooding the market.The idea is that, simply by wandering around, these trainers, MBT tennis shoes, shoes and sandals will create neater, tauter legs and butts. Can it really be that easy?
It all started with MBTs (Masai Barefoot Technology), the chunky “anti-shoe”, pictured above. Research showed that the rolling action of the soles really could relieve back, neck and joint pain for many people and – as an added bonus – they helped to tone the lower body and burn more calories.
Then FitFlops swept the country with their funky sandals. Studies at the Centre for Human Performance at the London South Bank University showed that normal walking in the sandals increased leg, calf and gluteal muscle activity and improved posture and muscle tone.
As with MBTs, wearers reported relief from a raft of conditions that are notoriously hard for doctors to fix – chronic back pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis and scoliosis (sideways spine curvature) to name a few.
The latest major player in the physiological footwear field is Reebok. Its EasyTone range of trainers and flip-flops has been the must-haves of the summer. Reebok has clearly seen the gap in the market – its range not only works your muscles, but the shoes look like normal trainers or flip-flops.The key lies in the soles – two rounded balance pods underneath the heel and forefoot that create a slight instability with each step that forces your muscles to work harder to adapt. It’s a bit like walking on uneven sand. Reebok says this increases muscle activity in the glutes by 28 per cent and in the calves and hamstrings by 11 per cent.I found the trainers comfortable and, by heck, they really do work your legs. I felt the burn in my thighs for about two days and, after a fortnight of wearing them around the house and down to the shops, my legs certainly felt a fair bit firmer. I didn’t notice any marked difference in my bum or calves.
However, these forms of functional footwear aren’t multi-purpose; even the EasyTone trainers are limited in their use. Because of their inherent instability they are not recommended for running, aerobics or playing sports.The experts though have a note of caution. “There is no substitute for real exercise and you should always choose footwear that is supportive to the feet and ankles,” he says. He approves of MBTs as they “teach good posture and core control” but is unconvinced by the others. “They are gimmicks,” he says. “They do make muscles work harder but not necessarily in a good way.”
Pros: superb if you have to stand a lot during the day. Great for easing back pain. A huge variety of physiological footwear styles — from sandals, MBT walking shoes to knee-high boots.
Cons: some people hate the clunky design. Can’t buy MBT shoes online. Poor selection and availability in parts of the country. Very expensive.£150-£249
Pros: fun and funky styles; excellent availability on and off-line. Very very comfortable.
Cons: some people find them too loose for comfort; some styles can rub between toes. The small print read the results are over a course of 36 month! Not a quick fix, that's for sure.
Pros: look like normal trainers/flip-flops. Really do work legs. Good availability on and off-line.
Cons: although they look like a standard cross-trainer, you will need separate styles for walking/running/aerobics. Be cautious if you have unstable knees or hips.
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