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Is that right? Toning flip-flops really shape your legs?

Guest blogger and Post intern Leslie Tamura researches the validity behind fancy footwear that promises a workout while you walk.

Flip-flops that promise to tighten your tush, chisel your calves and carve out your cankles -- really?

Well, if I can get a workout by simply walking around in my favorite summertime footwear, then I'm sold. But it doesn't seem to be quite that easy.

Though toning sandals -- and their predecessors, those bulbous toning sneakers -- have been around for a few years, I focused on them recently when a Fitflops poster caught my eye in a Red Line Metro station. "Get a workout while you walk," it promised.

Like its competitors, Fitflops are made with built-in instabilities that make certain muscles work harder than usual. FitFlop claims to do it with a "multi-density Microwobbleboard midsole." Skechers Tone Ups feature a "unique, soft, kinetic wedge insert." Reebok EasyTone Flip Flops have "balance pod technology." All simulate walking on a pliable, giving surface -- "like walking barefoot in the sand," in the words of Kathleen Stone, president of the American Podiatric Medical Association.

Stone, who practices in Glendale, Ariz., says the toning flip-flops "increase your use of certain muscle groups."

But, she warns, "We don't have a lot of data yet that really supports the [manufacturers'] claims." Toning sandals are "not a substitute for the gym."

She also warns that people who already have foot and ankle problems can worsen their condition with these flip-flops. Those who constantly wear toning sandals may deal with muscle fatigue, tendonitis, ankle sprains and shin splints.

"Just putting these on and wearing them 24/7," Stone says, "is like doing leg pushes 24/7. You're going to end up with an overuse problem just like any other exercise."

Stephen Pribut, a Washington, D.C. sports podiatrist, says that if you want your toes out there in the summer, the new sandals give more support than the "old flip-flops that bend everywhere." But, he adds, "You have to work out your arms, legs, backside, and the shoes aren't going to do all that."

"I like people who want to exercise to actually exercise," he said -- like with full-body workouts. These toning sandals, he says, are best for getting around town or chilling at the beach.

"Don't look for ways to cheat and exercise," Pribut said.

So have you tried a pair of FitFlops, Tone Ups or the like? Did they give you that better butt? Share your comments below.

-- Leslie Tamura

By Nancy Szokan  |  July 5, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Is That Right?  
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I don't know that I'd wear the flip flops but I would wear a pair of tennis shoes that help shape the legs and butts. I walk/run 150 steps every night in my apartment building and I do about 80 leg presses up to 85 pounds two or three times a week at my gym. I wouldn't mind wear tennies that help shape that area if I thought they'd work!

Posted by: Oxygen1 | July 5, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

I have the fit flops and they're great. I originally bought them because I was interested in the claims--and the lady at the shoe store was a big fan. But I wear them constantly because I have a foot problem (planter fasciitis) and the fit flops actually has some sort of healing power on it--it supports my arch in the right place while simultaneously allowing it to stretch out (unlike shoes). I don't know if they've toned anything because I never feel sore in my legs, but also I do a lot of weight lifting, so maybe I was already strong enough in my legs to not feel the "burn." In any case, they are comfortable and better for your feet than normal flip flops (for most).

Posted by: elizabethmn | July 9, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

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