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Are Toning Shoes the Next Crocs?

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"Forget the gym -- you just need special shoes!" With a pitch like that, no wonder toning shoes are generating sizzling sales. Is this craze a sustainable trend, or another fad that could leave investors with scrawny, underdeveloped returns?

Toning shoes supposedly work out the leg muscles while you go about your normal daily business. According to their promoters, the shoes not only tone wearers' legs, but also help reduce the "junk in your trunk." A Skechers (NYSE: SKX  ) ad says it all: "Get in shape without setting foot in the gym." I'm sold!

… Or not
A recent NPR report pointed out two new studies from the American Council on Exercise, which found "no significant difference between any of the toning shoes and the standard running shoe." Conversely (no pun intended), the American Podiatric Medical Association claims that certain brands of toning shoes, including Reebok's, are "beneficial to foot health and of significant value."

Toning shoes are currently the hottest segment in shoe fashion, with sales expected to surge to $1 billion this year. Companies like Skechers, Reebok, and MBT have been making a killing off this trend, selling the shoes for between $100 and $245 per pair.  

Nike (NYSE: NKE  ) has refused to play into the hot toning shoes market, though, expressing skepticism about the shoes' claims. It even launched a counter-ad campaign for its Nike Trainer One, claiming, "This shoe works if you do."

Fads can wreak havoc on stocks, making temporary eye-popping sales gains look tantalizingly sustainable to investors. Shoe stocks are particularly vulnerable to these wild swings. Look no further than the histories of Crocs (Nasdaq: CROX  ) and Heelys (Nasdaq: HLYS  ) to see the dangers of fading fads. To its credit, Skechers has a history of adeptly capitalizing off different shoe fads with its own offerings.

If toning shoes aren't a fad, and have staying power among consumers who feel their new kicks really are beneficial, Nike may have really put its foot in its mouth by missing the trend. The company behind the famous swoosh has lost share in women's footwear, thanks to its rebellion against the toning shoes craze.

Are toning shoes' robust sales sustainable, or juiced up by a fad? Are the companies making them nimble enough to evolve if the tide of consumer taste turns? What do you think of the toning-shoes craze? Let us know the comment box below.

Nike is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (10)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2010, at 3:40 PM, TMFKris wrote:

    I think they're a fad. I don't think people are going to see such an astounding difference in their physique that they will shell out extra money for a second pair. Even if they do help burn extra calories and work muscles harder than regular shoes while you walk around, that isn't going to result in a toned derriere. *sigh.

    I bought a pair of these shoes a few years ago from a sepcialty shop. I liked them and they were part of a move I made to combat plantar fasciatis. They weren't so great I will buy a second pair, even if I really want to believe the work-out-while-you-walk claims. And if these toner shoes do cause problems for a large number of people, they will sink out of sight fast.

    Kris -TMF copyeditor

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2010, at 3:10 PM, ragrillo wrote:

    I wrote an extensive view on Skechers in my blog. Rather than re-write it here, I am posting the link to it.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2010, at 4:20 PM, MSK214 wrote:

    This article mentions that the American Podiatric Medical Association endorses toning footwear in general--but that is actually not true. There are several models of toning footwear that have been carefully evaluated for allowing proper foot function and awarded the APMA's Seal of Acceptance. Those select products can be found on the following web page under "toning:"

  • Report this Comment On September 29, 2010, at 1:07 AM, virgo71 wrote:

    I bought the Danskin Now Women’s Athena Rocker Bottom Toning Sneakers online from Walmart for $20 with 97 cents shipment to my local store. I know this is just a fad so I bought the cheapest toning shoe out there just because I was curious. Here is my opinion...I am overweight (lost 26lbs so far by eating less & exercising), I have flat feet (no arch) and I do exercise (walk) in the Danskin's and I absolutely love them! The round bottom is not as noticeable like the other toner shoes and the Danskin's that I bought are pink/grey/white...pretty! They did take a few minutes to get use to but after I did, WOW! I do notice that my arches don't hurt anymore. As far as toning your legs & butt, I"m sure my diet & exercise have alot to do with my toning along with the shoes. These shoes are not magic like Dorothy's ruby slippers! Bottom line, if you don't have the money get Danskin's if you have lots of money buy the MBT's or even the Sketchers. Everyone's foot is unique so each toning shoe out there is not for everyone! Good luck shoe shopping!

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