Tagged Under : Beech Sandals, Earth Exerfit, Fitflop Freeway, Masai Barefoot Technology, MBT HABARI SANDAL, NGR Trainer, Reebok Easytone, Tonewalker, Vivo Barefoot Candy
They’re the latest thing in health and fitness – shoes that are ‘functional’. These promise a whole range of benefits from improving your posture and soothing arthritic feet to toning your bottom muscles. But does such footwear live up to the hype? We asked Emma Supple and Lorraine Jones of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists to review some of the newest products on the market.
VIVO BAREFOOT CANDY, £55
Vivo Barefoot Candy
Terraplana.com; 01458 449081
BENEFIT: Improved posture.
CLAIM: ‘Naturally flexes and strengthens the muscles in the feet and realigns your posture.’ The soles are thin enough so you can feel stones and changes in the surface underfoot – this is to mimic the benefits of walking barefoot, which promotes good posture and muscle strength in the feet and ankles. The shoes’ cushioning means you land more gently on your heels.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘They’re great for that barefoot-walking feeling – allowing your feet to move freely and in a natural fashion – without the risk of something splintering the sole,’ says Lorraine Jones.
‘It could be that they also help strengthen the foot as walking barefoot has been shown to do. But although described as shoes that can be worn anywhere, restrict them to soft surfaces such as grass, sand and carpet – avoid using on harder or stonier surfaces because you might hurt the skin and soles of the feet.’
REEBOK EASYTONE, £65
BENEFIT: Toned bottom muscles.
CLAIM: Independent tests have proved that, wearing EasyTone, a woman can generate up to 28per cent more muscle activation in her bottom. Launched in the UK on July 1, they promise to tone more effectively than any other shoe on the market. A balance pod in the sole creates instability with each stride, making the abdominal, bottom and leg muscles work harder to stay balanced.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘These seem to have had some rigorous testing, so they might help some people get in shape, especially those who don’t exercise much,’ says Lorraine Jones. ‘With the balance pod in the sole and the shoe designed for exercise, there is a chance you will do more of a workout in these, which will further any toning effect.
‘A good lace-up trainer like this supports the foot well. It is breathable and provides arch support. The cushioning reduces the impact on the foot when you run.’
EARTH EXERFIT, £36
lovethoseshoes.com; 0161 975 5380
BENEFIT: Calorie burning.
CLAIM: Will help you use up to four times more calories with every step than with normal shoes. The lightweight sandals are made with ‘negative heel technology’; the back of your foot sits 3.7 degrees lower than your toes, so it is like walking on a treadmill. The slope of the shoe means your hips shift forward and you walk with better posture, which may possibly relieve back pain.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Negative-heeled shoes are not recommended for most people,’ says Lorraine Jones. ‘They’re suitable only if you have very well developed Achilles tendons and leg muscles – something you’d get only from going to the gym regularly.
‘If you’re used to wearing any sort of heel – even half an inch in a man’s shoe – these are likely to cause problems. High heels shorten the Achilles tendon and these types of shoe lengthen it. Switching between the two will probably cause pain.’
MBT HABARI SANDAL, £150
www.outletsell.com; 020 7684 4633; John Lewis, Sweaty Betty nationwide
- MBT Women’s Habari Chocolate shoes
- MBT Women’s Habari Chocolate shoes are a new summer sandals 2010.This is a very airy and light sandal by MBT.Every step you take is like a small work out.Enjoy all the summer fun even after hours on your feet with the MBT Habri
BENEFIT: Better posture, arthritic pain relief.
CLAIM: Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT) was inspired by the Masai tribe ‘whose natural upright gait and posture, and minimal back or joint problems, reflect the advantages of walking barefoot on natural uneven surfaces’. The curved sole mimics natural instability when you walk.
Regular wear will activate neglected muscles, improve posture and gait, tone and shape the body and help with joint, muscle and tendon injuries. Until now MBT shoes have looked clumpy; this new version has a slimmed-down sole for a sleeker look.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘These are better than totally flat MBT sneakers or very high heels because they offer some cushioning and support,’ says Lorraine Jones. ‘But I doubt they’ll strengthen or tone your body; there’s nothing about the way they’re made that’s been proven to do this. You’d be better off getting some trainers and going for a walk.’Yet they are wonderful if you have arthritic feet, helping you walk without putting pressure on your toes and causing pain.’
NGR Trainer, £93
(available only online)
BENEFIT: Muscle strengthening.
CLAIM: Walk in these and burn 30 to 50per cent more calories. NGR stands for No Gym Required: these shoes replicate the benefits of going to the gym. You can add weights to the sole to make exercise harder.
EXPERT VERDICT: Many women, especially those used to wearing ballet pumps or lightweight trainers, would find these very heavy and clumpy, says Lorraine Jones.
‘Although the weights you can add would help tone the lower and upper legs, they could also change your walking style by forcing you to adopt a different gait and apply pressure on the joints, leading to injury if you wore them for too long.
‘Yet they are a substantial shoe with good support; if you started wearing them for just five to ten minutes a day, you might get used to them.’
FITFLOP FREEWAY, £49.99
fitflop.com; 08456 039802
BENEFIT: Toned leg muscles.
CLAIM: Creates a slightly unstable platform for the foot – the instability forces the muscles in the legs to switch on for longer to deliver a workout while you walk. The shoes have a highly cushioned heel area designed to absorb shock during activity and help those with vulnerable knee and hip joints.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Because they have a slight heel, they’re kinder to your feet than regular flat sandals,’ says Emma Supple. ‘They prevent straining of the Achilles tendon – many people don’t realise that regular flip-flops can be damaging for this reason. Independent trials have shown they help tone, so they’re worth a try.’
BENEFIT: Improved muscle flexibility and balance.
CLAIM: Provide up to five times more of a workout for your muscles when walking or even standing compared with normal shoes. Calories are burned faster and the appearance of cellulite is reduced because of increased activity. Has a bizarre-looking V-shaped platform sole that forces your back, stomach and leg muscles to work hard just to stay balanced.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘These shoes might create a little too much imbalance to be of any benefit,’ says Lorraine Jones. ‘They could make the foot wobble too much, putting strain on the legs. I also doubt they are very comfortable for most people because of the bizarre shaped sole.’
BEECH SANDALS, £29
beechsandals.co.uk;0161 975 5380
BENEFIT: Improved posture.
CLAIM: These sandals will improve balance and encourage correct body alignment. They have four toe-separators that stretch and properly align feet that have been stuffed into ill-fitting shoes. It’s thought equal toe separation helps to balance the body so that posture is improved. A favourite among yoga enthusiasts.
EXPERT VERDICT: ‘It’s been shown that separating the toes relieves pressure on the foot, whereas many normal shoes increase pressure by constricting the toes,’ says Emma Supple.
‘I like them as they hold your foot in the most natural way, and they are excellent for undoing the damage caused by high heels. Worn regularly, they could help you walk more efficiently and with better style, which will improve your posture.’
Miracle cures? Functional shoes claim to help a multitude of health woes