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Consumer Reports Investigates Claims Of Injury From Toning Shoes

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- You've no doubt seen the commercials for shoes that promise to get you in shape fast, just by walking in them. Sales of toning shoes totaled more than a billion dollars last year – that's about three times the year before.

But are they doing more harm than good? Consumer Reports Health recently looked into claims that the shoes are causing serious injuries.

The commercials for a variety of toning shoes make it look so easy to get in shape. However, as more people buy them, Consumer Reports' medical adviser Dr. Orly Avitzur is hearing more frequently about injuries.

"One patient was breaking in a pair of toning sneakers, and less than 45 minutes after putting them on felt her ankle turn and a bone break," said Dr. Avitzur.

Dr. Joel Buchalter, an orthopedic surgeon, says that's no big surprise. He says toning shoes are intentionally designed to create instability.

"If you take a patient who is elderly or someone who has a balance issue and you put that shoe on them, you're looking for disaster," said Dr. Buchalter.

But even younger people complain of problems, including the physician's assistant in Dr. Buchalter's office who bought some Skechers Shape-Ups.

"I was scrubbed in surgery, wore them for several hours, had back pain for probably three or four days," said Kara Lombardo.

Skechers instructs people to wear the shoes for short periods of time at first to give the body time to adjust.

As for the health benefits? The company says two studies it sponsored show improvement in fitness.

But Dr. Avitzur says another study tells a different story.

"An independent study by the American Council on Exercise found no significant difference between exercising in toning sneakers as compared to regular sneakers," Dr. Avitzur said.

The bottom line is that the health benefit touted in the commercials is uncertain, but the risk of injury is real.

Consumer Reports Health says if you have any balance or medical problems in your legs and feet, avoid toning shoes altogether.

New injury statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission show that even younger people in good physical shape have had problems with toning shoes, some of them serious.

Just since March, the CPSC has received 36 complaints about the shoes.

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