Reebok Runtones are the MBTs and FitFlops of running shoes. They’re “muscle-toning shoes you can wear while running, training and working out,” says Reebok, about the offspring of their popular Easytone line.
Like their podiatric predecessors, Runtone features tricked out soles that make movement more difficult and, so the logic goes, results in more muscle: “Compared to a traditional running shoe, RunTone encourages more activation in key leg muscles like the calves and quads and reduces overall body stress,” reads the Reebok website, which retails the shoes for $99.
Lee Silverman, founder of Jack Rabbit Sports in New York City, doesn’t buy it. (Or sell it.) “Your foot needs a solid platform. These shoes are squishy. At some point in your running stride there needs to be something stable underfoot for you to push off of. I’m concerned about what this chronic instability does your ankle, knee, hip alignment over time.”
The squishy factor Silverman’s referring to is due to eight cushions in the ball and heel of the foot that make you work harder. In fact, they make you feel like you’re running in sand.
But isn’t running already muscle-toning?
It seems pretty obvious that since toning shoes became such a hit with walkers, that Reebok couldn’t resist the bucks to be made on launching a version for runners. Herbert Hainer, Adidas Group CEO, told WWD, that, with this launch, “we are well on track to sell at least 5 million pairs of toning footwear in the U.S. alone this year.”
The ads I see for these types of shoes crack me up, says Daniel Lucas, the co-founder of Nimble Fitness and an uber-accredited fitness trainer. “It’s clear they’re marketing directly to one’s ego and the quick fix idea. If you have weak calves or hip strength, these shoes can’t stand in for a training program,” he says.
Additionally, the excessively cushioned soles might do some damage. Padded heels can encourage unnecessary heel striking, and most running coaches of the Born to Run-era encourage a feeling of lightness in your gait and running on the balls of the feet—the opposite of what these shoes with a sandbag-effect endorse. That’s why we doubt we’ll see anyone on November 7 running in them. Though I bet we’ll catch a glimpse of a few pairs on the sidelines. —Melisse Gelula