Toning shoes, or shoes that claim to work your butt, back, abs, and thighs while you walk, are cropping up all over. I even saw Fit Flops the other day that would fit my seven-year-old kid, which is sure sign that they’ve become more of a trend than a tool.
But in a recent speech to investors, Nike vice-president for global product and merchandising, Eric Sprunk, took a jab at competitors Reebok and Skechers, who are making a killing with their toning products:
Wouldn’t it be great if we could make a pair of shoes that made your butt smaller, made my gut look smaller, make your muscles look a little bit bigger, just by putting them on and…walking in them? Nobody can do that. I was just teasing.
Sprunk’s comment, though, might be little more than sour grapes.
That’s because when its competitors were busy creating toning shoes, Nike sat back and watched. Whether they didn’t believe the shoes really worked, or they thought the flip flops would flop isn’t clear, but what is clear is that they missed out on a very lucrative trend.
Though Nike is still number one in the U.S. woman’s athletic footwear market, Reebok and Skechers are making huge gains, thanks to their toning shoe lines. Reebok estimates they’ll sell five million pairs this year alone. Even Oprah loves them. And that makes Nike see red.
Not one to miss out on something good, the company is now promoting their Nike Free line to women. Five years old, Nike Free is the company’s answer to barefoot running — a trend that’s gaining in popularity (though not as fast as the toning shoe). From Bloomberg Businessweek:
We’re excited that women are spending money on athletic footwear, and we think we can get our share — said Charlie Denson, president of the Nike brand. Free can — supply the same kind of benefit to the athlete that maybe some of the others are claiming.
I think Nike is just scrambling to get their piece of the toning shoe pie, but I’d probably still buy a pair of Nike Free’s before a pair of Fit Flops. Toning shoes might work your legs a little, but I can think of far faster and more efficient ways to reach that goal in a pair of plain, old tennies.
How do you feel about toning shoes? Do you own a pair?