Skechers Shape-ups are the newest entry in the growing field of negative heel and rocker bottom shoes that claim you can strengthen your lower half, firm your abs, improve your posture, and burn extra calories just by wearing them around. Who could resist testing out a product like that? Not me.

May 14, 2009

By Su Reid-St. John
Skechers Shape-Ups are the newest entry in the growing field of negative heel and rocker bottom shoes that claim you can strengthen your lower half, firm your abs, improve your posture, and burn extra calories just by wearing them around. Who could resist testing a product like that?

Here's a little background on this kind of shoe: They basically work by putting you off balance. The heel is set slightly lower than normal shoes and the bottom of the shoe is curved, so your muscles are constantly working to keep you balanced and centered. A fitness-expert friend of mine likens wearing this type of shoe to "standing on little boats," and she's dead-on.

I wore the Shape-Ups throughout the day for about a week, heading out several times for a stroll around the walking path we have on our campus at work. I could definitely feel my leg and butt muscles working as my feet and legs readjusted with each step. I could especially feel the burn while walking uphill, although I began to dread the downhills, as my feet kept sliding forward to crunch my toes against the fronts of the shoes (one apparent downside to the curved bottoms).

Skechers attaches a whole slew of claims to these babies. Let’s take a look at some of the major ones:

  • Improve posture Seems reasonable. You have to have good posture to stay balanced on unstable surfaces (such as the bottoms of these shoes).
  • Strengthen ab muscles Check. Balance requires core strength, and ab muscles are key to your core. Doing a lot of balancing on these shoes therefore should strength your core (and thus your abs).
  • Tone thighs and calves; firm butt Yep. I could really feel my muscles working, from my calves all the way up to my derriere. And although it's way too soon to experience the actual firming and toning, that is to what muscle work tends to lead.
  • Promote weight loss Makes sense. Any sort of walking will promote weight loss (with or without these shoes). Plus you're bound to burn at least a few extra calories because of all the extra effort your legs and feet are putting in.
  • Make you feel like you're walking on sand Not exactly. The smooth, rocking motion these shoes coax your feet into doing doesn't feel at all like the toe-grasping, free-footed walking you do on the beach. Plus, you know how sand feels kind of hard underneath it all? These shoes are super-cushiony (they’re really comfy and springy, as if lined with tiny mattresses). Still, both sand and these Shape-Ups involve more motion within your foot and a constant search for balance, so there's some correlation.
  • Stylish Um, no. Absolutely not. OK, so I may not be up on all the newest designers, but I like to think I have a sense of what's hip and what's not. These are not. They're big and clunky, white with light blue and silver trim, and I felt a bit dorky wearing them. I appreciated that they came with two pairs of laces (one white, one light blue), but that's like putting a different colored Band-Aid on a broken leg—it doesn't help. The first time I put them on, I wandered over to a colleague's office. "They look like nursing shoes," I said. "Space-age nursing shoes," she corrected.

To be fair, Skechers offers other colors and styles, although they all sport the big, boatlike sole. Plus, as another colleague pointed out, more and more people are beginning to wear this kind of shoe around town and to the gym, so you wouldn't necessarily stick out like a sore thumb.

Bottom line: These shoes will indeed give your legs a workout that goes beyond mere walking—if, that is, you can get over their looks. I'm still working on it.

Product: Skechers Shape-Ups fitness shoes

Category: Shoes

Pros: Comfy and fun to wear, they're an easy way to add a little tone to your legs, butt, and abs, whether you’re power walking or just running errands at lunch.

Cons: They're somewhat dorky-looking.

Cost: $110 at skechers.com (Although that might seem expensive, it's less than half the price of some of the other negative-heel shoes out there.)

Extra tip: These shoes are definitely made for walking—not running.

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