Fitness Shoe Skepticism: FitFlops & MBTs Glorified Platform Sandals & Sneakers?

Monday, June 15th, 2009 | General, Style and Technology

Specialized toning fitness shoes are popping up all over the place these days.  Originating with curved sole MBT sneakers and semi-wedge FitFlops, these trendy “fitness shoes” are supposed to help tone muscles, improve posture, and more!  Am I going to jump on the leg-toning fitness shoe bandwagon and buy MBT sneakers or FitFlops (or both)?  I think not!

I find the latest trend selling glorified platform sneakers and flip flops as special fitness shoes disconcerting.  The average toning fitness flip flop seems to cost twice as much as the regular platform flip flop sandals that I wear (by Flojos); the average toning fitness sneaker seems to cost four times the price of my beloved Aldo or Nine West platform wedge sandals.  I hope this trend does not mean that my usual platform sandals are going to cost a lot more from now on because they’ve been toning my legs as I walk!

What Fitness Shoes Can Supposedly Do

FitFlop, for example, claims that their fitness sandals can help do the following:  improve posture, minimize back stress, and also firm and tone the gluteal muscles.  FlitFlop’s patented technology supposedly works to “realign the ground reaction force directly through the center of your pelvic girldle to minimize lower back stress,” according to a recent FitFlop advertisement.  Moreover, one customer testimonial in the same ad even states that the sandal has “just about cured” her chronic heel, lowerback and sciatica problems! Perhaps she should try my Flojos!

New Fitness Technology or Old Platform Design?

I have been wearing “traditional” platform wedges, flip flops, and slide sandals for years now – trend or no trend – and they have served me quite well as I walk, my legs remaining reasonably toned, thank you very much.  Wearing these “regular” non-fitness platform shoes has, I think, helped lengthen my stride, allowing me to walk further faster, but I would mostly attribute my good muscle tone to simply walking relatively quickly and, more importantly, to going to the gym!

Therefore, I don’t quite see how the latest toning fitness shoes can surpass traditional wedges and platforms in keeping my legs fit enough to justify their price.  I mean, have the researchers compared Fit Flops and MBTs to my two-inch platform wedges in clinical studies?  It’s not like these new fitness shoes can even fall back on good looks (see product images).

Meilily: Fitness Shoes - MBT, FitFlop, Skechers

Meilily: Fitness Shoes - MBT, FitFlop, Skechers

To be fair, I haven’t tried out these latest toning fitness shoes, because I refuse to succumb to mere trend (but I suppose I might be convinced to try them out for comparison if they magically appeared at my doorstep)!  I apparently have saved up all my skepticism for this toning fitness shoe trend, but I really do wonder if these shoes have actually benefited anyone!

It’s enough of a workout trying not to sprain an ankle walking down the sidewalk wearing “platform” anything!

If you really want to try out this toning fitness shoe trend, the curved bottom Swiss MBT sneakers and sandals are top of the line (read “expensive” at around $245) – I first noticed MBTs several years ago in the Bliss catalog, thinking they were jokingly expensive and funny looking.

Another popular and much less expensive choice seems to be FitFlops, glorified flip flop sandals ($40). Now that brands like Skechers and Reebok are getting in on the trend (with sneakers that look similar to MBTs) toning fitness shoes are coming to the masses. Get ready!  Get Walking!

Other fitness shoes to check out:  Shape Up Shoes ($39.99-$80) and Exer-Fit ($49-$149)

Update August 20: You might want to check out this recent CNN article, also about toning shoe skepticism!

Do let me know how toning fitness shoes work for you! The product lover in me would love to find out if any of these shoes actually work well!

Meilily: Live Beautifully!

© Meilily 2009, All Rights Reserved

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25 Comments to Fitness Shoe Skepticism: FitFlops & MBTs Glorified Platform Sandals & Sneakers?

June 15, 2009

I have a pair of MBTs and love them, and for the price think that I may give fitflops a shot!

June 15, 2009

I was reluctant for years to try the MBTs, the most expensive ones in the bunch. But they saved my life/back/feet, and are worth every penny. Are they a workout in a shoe? Who knows. All I know is they have helped me SO MUCH with my low back pain and heel pain, that I recommend them to everyone I can at the drop of a hat. Have yet to try the sketchers knock-offs of same — will probably try some fitflops first, since it’s summer.

Kathryn Fenner
June 15, 2009

Well, scoff if you will, but I walked 4-5 miles a day in regular running shoes before I got my MBT sandals, and boy oh boy did I feel the difference when I wore them! I got tired after 20 minutes. They are butt-ugly, and I do have to be careful not to fall sideways off them and twist my ankle, but they are a useful adjunct to regluar fitness walkers. I suspect Earth Shoes might do the same for considerably less, though. It’s as much the negative heel.

David Stock
June 16, 2009

I’v never tried those toning fitness shoes. Well, i hope they are comfy. I’m not so crazy about the design either.

June 16, 2009

Thanks for the great comments!

-hanako66 – I’m glad to hear you love the MBTs! I need to try them, but probably not at full price : )

-kathemc – That’s fantastic that wearing your MBTs helped with the back and heel pain. I may need to get some of these. Do let me know if you try the Skechers or FitFlops!

-Kathryn – You’ll have to pardon all my scoffing : ) It sounds like MBTs do have a fitness benefit over regular sneakers- I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a pair of MBT sandals for my mom (she can test them out for me) : ) so its good to hear that they are good for fitness walking. I am also curious to try the Earth Shoes negative heel too!

-David- I make fun of the design, but I guess if it helps their functionality, then more power to ’em!

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July 28, 2009

I developed plantar fasciitis a few years ago and even with orthotics I could barely walk and I was in a lot of pain. I read about MBT’s in a magazine and the first time I tried them on I noticed instant relief. In the beginning I wore them with my orthotics but now I don’t need to.

I own a pair of MBT sneakers and sandals. I think the price is outrageous(those Swiss engineers can get away with anything) but for regaining my mobility, they are worth every penny. Yes they really do tone my legs! And there is certainly an adjustment period if stop wearing them for a while.

After wearing the sneakers exclusively for 1 year and off/on for another they are in very good condition. They are well made and very durable. I’m thinking of getting them resoled soon.

I want to try the Sketchers. I wonder if they also have a fiberglass/wood last inside the shoe.

July 29, 2009

Celeste- Great to hear about your success with MBT’s! It also sounds like they are good quality, which is important. You’re really making me want to get some!

[…] I think this stuff works, so that’s pretty good for skeptical me! YMMV, of course, but I like using Bliss Love Handler […]

[…] *Read more about Fit Flops and other fitness shoes here on Meilily! […]

August 20, 2009

Your blog made me laugh! Although i do have to say that i’m a big fan of toning shoes!!!

Not so much the MBT’s, i found them too heavy when i tried them. But i’ve been wearing Skechers Shape Ups for a couple of months and they are the comfiest shoes i’ve ever worn! And surprisingly light weight! They’ve really given me a huge helping hand in toning up my legs! I’m so busy at the moment with work and don’t have time for the gym, so i just wear my skechers on my lunch break and go for a walk! Great that i can incorporate a fitness plan into my every day routine!

In terms of Earth shoes, i’ve been wearing them for a couple of years. Originally to help with my back pain (which they were amazing for) but they do give your legs a great workout aswell!

Maybe you should try them out and then write about your thoughts!

August 22, 2009

rebecca – Thanks, glad you’ve enjoyed your Earth shoes and Shape Ups. Sounds like you could sell their shoes with anecdotes like those!

I’d love to try them if I didn’t have to shell out so much $ for them : ) As mentioned in the article, the skeptic in me gets a great workout already in the platform shoes I wear, so it would take a lot to get me to spend extra on special toning shoes right now.

Btw- You may want to try on some MBT’s again: MBT apparently has made their latest shoe models lighter. For example, the MBT Sport now has a lighter and slightly roomier version in the MBT Sport II. (Note: the MBT Sport II is also reported to fit higher around the ankles.)

December 11, 2009

These shoes provide me with such wonderful support and the engineering is amazing.

January 18, 2010

Hey guys, I am a certified pedorthist and medical massage therapist and I specialize in orthopedic conditions. I am constantly seeing and treating the same conditions over and over again such as plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, knee pain and of course back pain. I spend several hours a week looking for the best for my patients and found that only the MBT has the correct biomechanical movement to stop compensation from improper gait. The MBT is engineered to recreate walking on soft, natural ground like walking in sand. They are designed by a Swiss engineer who studied the gait of the African Masai tribe who walk barefoot on soft ground. He found that foot, knee, hip and low back pains are extremely rare to them. Additionally, he understood that the human body is not designed to walk on hard, flat & stable surfaces like concrete which forces us to walk unnaturally. I have been wearing MBT for almost 5 years and I make it a point to try the latest technology and so far nothing has come close. The Sketchers has simply copied the look but not the function…. that’s why they are half the price! The other knock offs don’t offer the natural 3 dimensional rolling movement with instability (heel, outside of foot, then roll back to the big toe). The easiest way to understand this movement is to think about your footprint in the sand. Finally, I’ve noticed that all the other brands are focused on muscle toning but MBT is used as a medical device in Europe and Canada to treat medical conditions. Hope this helps!

January 18, 2010

i would say that the fitflops are worth it considering the price diffence in MBTS. Fitflops are so comfortable and have helped my posture a massive amount i got mine from [edit] i would definatly recommend.

fitflop sandals
April 1, 2010

good reviews , I love my fitflops but those bigger styles I am not to sure about , I think they are way to chunky and funny looking , I am short so I really think they make me look like a hobit

May 25, 2010

The reason fitflops work is because they don’t make you look ‘special’, unlike shape ups which are just ugly and chunky.

June 13, 2010

I have osteoarthritis in my feet and the doctor recommended “rocker” shoes. So I went and got some of the MBT’s and was amazed at how much better my feet felt! I was desperate and didn’t really care what they looked like because I was in terrible pain. I now wear the Sketchers Tone Ups and love them even more…because they are much cuter! Amazing what that “rocker” design does for aching feet!

July 1, 2010

I bought “fitflops”, not for the toning aspect but for the fantastic arch support. I have very flat feet and always have to wear runners with othotics or sandals for very short period of times.

I was in Seattle and tried a pair on at Nordstrom and have never felt such great support in a summer shoe. Since then I have bought every single colour and right when I get out of bed slip them on, (those instead of runners)

I did buy a few of the sketchers, and they seem just as good, but might wear out a little faster…

But I swear by them.

August 13, 2010

I am not sure just wearing MBTs to the store will fix your Butt, BUT the 2 people that I know well said walking a block with knee pain was to much for them. Both can now walk a mile or more. The shoes reduced thier pain so much they felt they had thier life back.

COSTCO has them in here in Seattle as of 8/1/2010

August 18, 2010

I have MBT’s and find them uncomfortable and ugly too, but I have been wearing FitFlops for about 5 years now, I dont know about the fitness aspect but as for comfort you cant beat them. I have walked miles in them where other “comfortable” shoes or trainers would have eventually made my feet ache or get blisters. If I get home with aching or sore feet from other shoes my FitFlops are more comfortable even than bare feet! I now have several pairs, wear them constantly, use tabbi toe socks in winter so my feet keep warm. I have the boots and I am getting the new trainers.

September 3, 2010

My orthopedic doctor recommended the FitFlop for an injury I had, and they saved me. I didn’t use them for fitness (nor would I use them now), but they do make long walks that much more comfortable.

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