THE BLOG
07/05/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Fitness Shoes: To Wear or Not to Wear

2010-05-05-ScreenHunter_04Apr.3017.54.jpgA good friend recently suggested I try out MBT shoes--the kind of athletic sneakers with the curved heel, with claims of working your glutes and calves when you wear them. Like the majority of women, I think my butt could use some improvement. So I figured, I have nothing to lose (except perhaps my sense of fashion), and a rounder toosh to potentially gain. Let's be honest, these fitness shoes are pretty ugly. (I mean, it is a bit ironic to try to improve your looks by wearing something clunky and unsavory.) But as part of my job, I'm game to try whatever, so I picked what I deemed one of the cutest pairs--something that I could see myself throwing on to walk up to the coffee shop. I got the Baridi style (think sneaker Mary Jane) in Dove (white and gray), which actually are cuter in person than they looked on the website. (Although I will say that a friend saw them in my apartment and gasped in horror, "What ARE those!?")
MBT claims that these shoes, which force you to walk with a rolling action, help solve knee and back problems and ease joint pain, while helping your muscles engage and therefore you burn more calories.

They almost sound too good to be true, so I checked in with Brian Thurston, a trainer at the Sports Club/LA, Beverly Hills and Tim Barret from Sports Club/LA, Rockefeller Center to see what these guys had to say. Tim is pretty against them, saying that they can decrease ankle mobility, which could potentially worsen your posture. Brian, however, says that there are plenty of benefits to the shoes, as long as you remember not to wear them in place of exercise. "These shoes are a tool to help regain inhibited hip musculature. The ultimate scenario would be to use these shoes as a device, sort of like an orthotic, to help regain some hip functionality," he said. He does recommend getting used to the shoes (which I agree with - they are a bit awkward at first!) and also says that elderly persons should probably avoid them, as they may be more prone to injury. Also, this may go without saying, but don't work out in these shoes--they're meant for walking only.

So that's all fine and good, but what I need to know more than what people tell me from studies and such, is what I felt, and my review is positive. I started by wearing them around the house and believe it or not, after just a bit of use, my calves were a bit sore! (And I work out five times per week, so for me to be sore, I know I'm hitting some underused muscle fibers.) After a long walk around my neighborhood, I felt my glutes working; and I definitely noticed an improvement in my posture (which I also attribute to being more conscientious of it). These rocker-sole shoes are meant to simulate walking barefoot, or how you feel walking in sand (heel sinking back and then rolling forward to propel you onward). One other benefit: they're quite comfortable to wear. I would actually recommend them to travelers who have spare time in the airport to go for a jaunt (with the caveat, that you're not looking fly while you fly).
Final word: If you walk around a lot during the day and don't care what your footwear looks like, then rocker soles are a great way to work butt and leg muscles that you may have neglected.