Muscle building quackery and misinformation is everywhere. One of the hottest products the last couple of years is the ‘muscle building’ shoes sold by several major shoe companies. Sold mostly to women, one of the advertising slogans if “your boobs will be jealous,” implying your legs will look so great other bodyparts will pale in comparison. Cute.
As usual, there are studies to bolster these claims, including one study of five people who walked 500 steps on a treadmill and were measured to generate 28% more muscle activity in their glutes and 11% more in their hamstring and calf muscles. But as reported in the New York Times, “A newer experiment presented in June at the sports medicine meeting showed that when someone walks in a rocker-style toning shoe, forces generated by the foot striking the ground move up the leg differently than if that person wears a walking shoe. But this shifting of forces had little discernible effect on muscle activation.”
And even though those numbers 28% and 11% sound good, those are increases in the minuscule muscle activity it takes to walk. Compared that to a leg press or toe press with hundreds of pounds. That’s an increase of perhaps 1,000% or more than walking. That’s how you build leg muscles, my friend.
And a Canadian study showed that after six weeks the muscles had adjusted to the different geometry of the shoes and no difference in muscle was measured. The human body is masterful at adapting. Give it a less efficient way to walk and it will find a way to adjust to it so as to not exert extra energy. The exact opposite of the claimed benefit. In the end most proponents fall back on the argument that people like the way the shoes feel and therefore will walk more often – therefore getting a benefit after all. Right.
It’s such a shame that multi-billion dollar athletic companies perpetuate and promote silly, useless tactics to build muscle. Ironically, these dumb shoes were inspired by the dumb Swiss ball exercises that also claim ridiculous muscle-building benefits due to awkwardness. All of this in the 21st century!
I’ll tell you something personal. I travel all over the world and meet many people in social situations. When they ask me what I do for a living I just say I have an internet business selling ‘information’ to customers. I don’t tell them I’m in the strength training business because I’m ashamed of the industry. It a business full of hucksters and opportunists and it goes all the way up the food chain to giant shoe manufacturers, gold standard retailers and university exercise physiology departments that never bite the hand that feeds them. Yuk.
You want more muscular legs? It’s easy to get them and it doesn’t require limping around in silly shoes.