The success of toning shoes and toning sandals has taken many by surprise, with even major sneaker brands such as Nike being caught out by the prolonged run which has seen its market share of women's athletic shoes eaten up considerably. Standing back, they have been cool, calm and collected whilst they have waited for the bubble to burst when they will be poised to say "I told you so". However there must have been some bigwigs sweating after taking the decision to stay out of the market which has seen 252 million dollars of revenue generated in the first quarter of 2010 alone according to Reuters.

The timing of a new independent study by the American Council on Exercise at University of Wisconsin could not be better for any brand who has not entered the lucrative toning shoe market, with the publishing of a report which claims that toning shoes do not increase muscle tone at all, and that the claims of the toning shoes manufacturers are either bogus, or that the in house research was flawed. Toning shoes occupy many of the top ten places of women's athletic shoes best seller lists and the gravity of this report could prove to be enormous, as without the benefits of toning to sell the shoes, the sales figures are sure to plummet and the toning shoe bubble sure to burst.

However of the millions of pairs of toning shoes sold to date, there are many happy women the world over, who swear by their shoes and really feel the difference they make, so how is this possible? According to ACE, because the shoes are unnatural, they do in fact activate little used muscles initially, and as they condition the body to the new way of movement the effects can be felt, but the ACE team claim that this effect is just short lived. However women seem to disagree on this point, feeling the benefits from exercise in the shoes for some time.

The toning shoes manufacturers have been quick to respond, calling the ACE research into question and strongly criticising the methods they used. Skechers Shape Ups have been the subject of case studies run over 8 months, with 80 women compared to the ACE test over 3 x 5 minute tests, with only 12 women. The American Council on Exercise also claims that toning shoes manufacturers do not subject their research to peer review, when this is untrue. The 8 month study was endorsed and reviewed independently, and the claims for increased weight loss, better muscle tone and body fat reduction has all been verified. Numerous studies have been conducted on the rocker sol design, with some studies making it to publication in scientific journals. It would appear that the decision to only release data on two groups of 12, with only 6 hours of research conducted is not considered sufficient to counter the wealth of research already completed. Whilst Ace claim that manufacturers research is biased, even Ace have sports apparel to sell and have a financial interest in the toning shoe market.

What the report does not question are the wide range of health benefits which toning shoes offers, such as increasing the movement of the feet by simulating barefoot walking in soft sand. The range of muscles activated helps to bring more mobility to the joints, and the EVA foam underfoot offers incredible comfort, cushioning the shockwaves from walking easing the pressures on the joints. Toning shoes and sandals improve the posture, easing back pain and shoulder tension, correcting the common slouch. By increasing movement, blood circulation is improved, and the shoes promote a faster speed of walking to help increase the cardiovascular value of exercise and to get the muscles working harder.

The toning properties of the shoes were not tested for a long period in the ACE study, leaving toning shoes manufacturers feeling a little short changed. Testing for 30 minutes would have been much more likely to produce a positive response than for 5 minutes, when the shoes are recommended for at least 25 minutes walking to start with by Skechers. With the test conducted at a fixed speed, the faster walking pace which leads to increased cardiovascular value was not permitted, making it no surprise that the heart rate stayed the same.

If you buy toning shoes just to tone the lower body, there is no substitute for work, and you will still need to crank up the miles to really feel the difference. If you want posture enhancing benefits and a healthy living advantage, toning shoes and toning sandals remain an excellent choice. The claims of the satisfied customers and the body of research back up the claim that toning is taking place, however how long you need to walk in order to really feel the benefits are still open to speculation.