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Do Round-Soled Sneakers Actually Help Your Workout?

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Each week, it seems there's a new pair of shoes, promising a better body, to hit the market.

Is there any merit to the manufacturers' claims that this special footwear can boost muscle strength, help you lose weight, and even eliminate the need to hit the gym? A new study puts them to the test, reports CBS 2's Kristine Johnson.

You've seen the commercials showing shoes that promise to make a workout of your everyday activities.

Manufacturers claim the slightly unstable shoes force the wearer's body to work harder to stay balanced with each step, so muscles get more of a workout.

"The shape-ups have improved my strength and posture," one user said.

Some podiatrists – foot and ankle specialists – agree that a shoe with a rounded, more cushioned sole can be good to walk on. Can they help you burn more calories, tone your legs, and firm your figure, though, just by running around in them every day?

"If you spend a good amount of money on a good running shoe, I believe you're getting just as much, if not more, benefit," podiatrist Dr. Chris Lock said.

Dr. Lock doesn't believe the hype, and a new study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise backs up his belief.

According to the study, wearing so-called "fitness" shoes will have no beneficial effect on exercise intensity or caloric expenditure compared to wearing a regular running shoe.

The maker of Sketchers Shape-Ups, one of the most popular brands, cites several other studies showing the shoes do work. In a statement, the company's president said, "Sketchers has received literally thousands of unsolicited testimonials from customers praising Shape-Ups and saying that they received the benefits claimed."

"I actually had a patient who came in about two months ago with Achilles tendonitis," Dr. Lock said.

Dr. Lock also warns the shoes should not be worn by everyone, because the rolling motion puts a lot more stress on muscles and tendons in the back of the lower leg.

"Especially harmful for those shoes are people who have an unstable gait. Because the shoe has a rocker bottom, the shoe can actually be quite harmful for those people," Dr. Lock said.

So what's the bottom line?

Experts say that while walking in unstable shoes does appear to make some muscles work overtime, studies exploring whether that action leads to stronger muscles have been inconclusive. They also say that no matter what shoes you're wearing, you're going to need to sweat if you want to lose weight.

One sure benefit of the shoes is that studies found that the unstable, cushioned soles can help reduce knee pain from osteoarthritis.

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