Leg shaping, weight loss shoes: MBTs vs Shape Ups vs Easy Tone vs Fitflops and Sketchers. The world of Anti-shoes!

Written by Doctor of Physical therapy Kat Lieu.


Humans were born to walk the face of this Earth bare-footed, like the Masai tribe. However, this can no longer be the case as our world is filled with man-made flat concrete, cement, and wooden floors. Our feet are constantly abused with every step– that’s why good shoes make all the difference. Innovative shoes such as MBTs and other rocker-bottoms may help correct our poor walking ways and protect our feet, as well as help us tone-up, shape-up and perhaps lose some weight. Too good to be true? Well read on. Let’s compare some of the “special” shoes out there now. All of these are a podiatrist’s worst nightmare, by the way. Why? For one– They do not need to be customized or prescribed. Secondly, they can perhaps reduce foot pain, prevent plantar fasciitis, tone ankle and leg muscles, and stretch the Achilles tendon. They may even stimulate and strengthen the vestibular system.

We have the following shoes: MBTs: Masai Balance Technology, Chung Shi shoes, Shape Ups, Sketchers Shape Ups, Reeboks Easy Tones, and Fit Flops. All these shoes work by enhancing our natural gait cycle, with the exception of the Shape Ups from http://www.shapeupshoes.com/. Let’s review each one:

MBT shoes: PRO: I am a physical therapist who has been wearing MBT shoes—a wide variety of them from Mary-Janes, to sneakers, to formal shoes—and I can attest to the fact that they do tone your legs. Especially the hamstrings (the back thigh muscles). They also improve your standing and walking posture and decrease your ankle pain—I used to wear orthotics for over-pronation and my flat feet, but ever since I started wearing MBTs, I have not needed orthotics. I also have less ankle pain when I walk long distances in these shoes. As for shaping the tummy—well, I have been doing some oblique exercises and notice a muscular cut in my abs, so I can’t say this is from MBTs. Do MBTs help you lose weight? Well not unless you run in them everyday—and I have not been running in them. My weight has remained the same for one year and I walk a lot daily. I have to say that the inherent design and build of this shoe is innovative– I believe these were the first Anti-shoes made. The soft heel will not lose its effect even after a year. The shoes do not get dirty easily. So you are paying for quality. The heel is also thicker, forcing you to do a heel to toe gait and when you’re standing, you have more ankle pumping action, leading to musculature usage. This increase blood flow in the legs and may decrease varicose veins and leg swelling.

CON: They are expensive—over 200 dollars for the newer designs. You can find cheaper steals that are out-of-date designs, less than a hundred dollars at Century 21, Shoe Mania, and other shoe stores. The shoes are clunky in design, comparable to “diabetic-shoes.” However, the shoes have been redesigned to look a bit more fashionable.

These shoes, as with all the other rocker shoes, are not meant for those who have poor balance in regular shoes and vestibular problems—though you may benefit from wearing these shoes if you train in them, to improve your vestibular system. You need to be trained by a professional though. So if you have dizzy spells, and vestibular problems, be warned. You need to be careful not to trip and fall in these shoes.

And will they make your butt look amazing? Well, it’ll make it look a bit firmer, but you’ll have to do squats and other booty-moves to get super-amazing buttocks.

On to the next shoes:
Sketchers Shape Up Shoes: PRO: I believe the idea is similar to MBT, however, the heel is not as soft, thick and not as mechanically efficient as the original MBT. The designs are prettier and less clunky. The cost is less: around 100 for the sneakers and a little more for the dressier shoes. Similar benefits to the MBTs, though you may have to wear these for a longer period of time to notice a difference. You may have to switch to a new pair of shoes sooner too.

CON: Similar to the MBT shoes– the heels are thinner. I have not worn these shoes in person, but from the reviews I’ve read, these shoes are not as effective as MBTs. These shoes are not miracle shoes but they will make your legs toner and shapelier.

Fit Flops: I have no experience with Fit Flops. They do look nice though. I believe it’s the same premise as the MBT and Sketchers Shape Up Shoes.

Reebok Easy Tone Shoes: Heel and toe area bumpers, with similar thickness– the heel thickness does not appear to be as adequate as MBTs. The mechanics are different here. Instead of a cushioned heel strike forcing you to roll your foot to toe off (which leads to a longer stretch, you have a back “bumper” and a front “bumper”– quick heel strike, quick toe off. You’re muscles are worked in shorter but quicker bursts). There is a wide variety and the price is nice. I can’t say whether these are more or less effective as MBTs because they use different mechanics, though I would imagine the shoe would be even more effective if the two bottom “bumpers” are thicker.

Chung Shi Shoes: http://www.chungshiusa.com/index.php?page=concept
The benefits stated in the site rival those of MBTs, however, I have never seen this shoe or touched it in person before. Mechanically from the pictures, I would say these are probably designed like Easy Tone shoes.
The ones with the thicker heels may work like MBTs, but honestly, I have no first hand experience with these shoes.

Kmart Thera Shoes:
What a rip off of MBTs– even the design. Still I would imagine this shoe works the same way– it’s cheaper. I don’t support knockoffs because I’m a writer who has experienced having my work plagiarized, so having another brand knock off another brand so blatantly is just not kosher in my book. At least make the design different.
The first picture is the knockoff. And the second picture is the MBT version, which came out long ago (my first pair in fact!)
Kmart shoe mbt

Shape Ups: Not the Sketchers’ line, but a shoe called the Shape Up Shoes:: See the big picture to the left. Somehow, I’m just not sold by these shoes. If you just stand on them for 30 minutes to “work out”, okay, but I would imagine you would land flat on your face if you wear these outdoors. And if you try jogging in these, good luck. You can definitely jog in MBTs– they decrease the ground reaction force that hits your heels with each heel strike. With Shape Ups, the design seems to put too much strain on your dorisflexors to counteract the forced ankle plantarflexion. In Simpler terms, I do not recommend Shape Ups. All the others I’ve listed before this shoe, I would recommend for others to try, especially MBT shoes. SO the bottom line is– I’m all for anti-gravity shoes! Try them and have fun! But be careful not to trip! And ah, these shoes are addicting– you may never be able to go back to regular shoes!

Hope this article helps. Perhaps I’ll be seeing more people in anti-gravity shoes on the streets soon!
Here are links to some of the shoes you can buy:
Swiss Masai MBT Shoes
Fit Flops
And google reebok easy tone: My new verdict on the Easy Tones is that though it has three bumpers, the three bumpers aren’t thick or sturdy enough to be as efficient as the MBT shoes.

On another note, people should really stop wearing shoes with flat bottoms. These shoes do nothing for your feet, only cause problems in the long run.

Happy walking people~
this article receives over 200 reads a day. Thank you for reading!

67 thoughts on “Leg shaping, weight loss shoes: MBTs vs Shape Ups vs Easy Tone vs Fitflops and Sketchers. The world of Anti-shoes!

  1. wow kath, i actually stumbled onto ur blog cuz i was searching for the diff b/w all the anti’s out there. it’s so great having a pt for a friend! my main debate is between MBT and Skecher’s Shape Ups… whatchu think?

    • sketcher’s are cuter and cheaper, but from what I’ve heard, MBTs are more effective. For hamstring shaping and good posture– I’ve done MBTs the last year plus so I would say MBTs :)))))

  2. I love my Fit Flop Shape Up Shoes. I stand all day long at my job, so I wear the shoes all day long. I can really tell a difference in my calves. I have only been wearing them for 4 weeks but I can already tell a difference. I am actually addicted to these shoes.

  3. Hopefully, because of Skechers, MBT will lower their prices! This is similar to what all the pharmacies and grocery stores did in response to Wal-Mart selling $4 generic drugs.

  4. I have 2 pairs of Skechers Shape Ups (both tennis shoes) and I LOVE them! I’ve tried on MBTs and they feel a little “harder” and don’t seem to cushion my feet like the Shape Ups do. I would, however, like to get a pair of MBTs just to see how they compare but they’re a little out of my price range… I can honestly say that since I’ve been wearing my Shape Ups (literally every single day all summer long) I have made less trips to the chiropractor for my lower back. I haven’t lost any weight but I do feel like my legs (the backs especially) are more toned and proved that to be true Saturday night when I tried to put on a pair of my favorite zip up boots and they wouldn’t zip because my calf muscles have gotten too big!! I often find myself rocking back and forth from heel to toe when I wear my Shape Ups so that could be why my calves are bigger. They also eliminate some of the impact on your ankles and knees when running and add a little challenge to squats (try staying balanced and not rocking back and forth). Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of the Shape Ups!! Hopefully I’ll be able to get a pair of MBTs soon and I can comment on those as well!

  5. Anyone know how safe these are for an older person with some weight up top and not great ankles? I’d like to try walking for fitness, but some of these look like it would be easy to fall…

    • you would just have to try on a pair at the store, walk around in it a bit and see if you can get the hang of it. I’ve never tripped or fallen in my MBTs– I even transfer patients in them– and I’ve worn them for over a year

    • Hi Sonja…I am 67 yrs old and I love these shoes…I thought they would effect my balance in a negative way…but from the moment I put them on I loved them…add I have always had foot problems…I was a hairdresser all my life and overweight!
      Hop this helps
      Linda…I am talking about Skecher Shape-ups

  6. I am looking to buy some of these new shoes, but dont know if I should get the Sketchers shape-ups or the Reebok easy tones. Has anyone tried both kind and have a preference for everyday wear and for excersize?

    • I have worn MBTs for a year and they work well
      I would believe Easy tone shoes have a different mechanic but are as effective– so why not go and try both on and see which is more comfortable for you?

  7. Your review starts out saying it will cover all those you did review, but it also says you’ll review Chung Shi shoes. I don’t see that part of the review – what about Chung Shi shoes?

  8. I am a Massage Therapist and I have a regular client that comes in to see me. She bought the Sketchers shape-ups and the difference in her legs are unbelievable! Seeing this real proof, I myself am buying them they are amazing and absolutely work.

  9. I am very picky about shoes and sometimes I think it seems that there are few shoes fit right or be comfortable. Until one day, I got to know MBT on a certain website. I looked through the MBT shoes! I thought I could never afford to buy these MBT shoes, but there are MBT shoes on clearance now! These shoes provide me with such wonderful support and comfort. They are MBT shoes online well made and the engineering is truly amazing. They really have great temptation, and I finally decided to buy a pair. Highly recommend!
    discount mbt shoes

  10. I bought the Skechers Shape-Ups from QVC about 2 wks ago ($100 w/free S&H) I have very painful heels/arches even though I have the orthopedic recommended inserts in my reg shoes, the Sketchers are quite comfortable but take a little getting used to. I find them to be very comfortable. Its too early to say if I have changes in my legs from walking the dog in them.
    BTW- in case you have never ordered from QVC & want to try shoes or anything else, you ALWAYS get a 30 day unconditional money back guarantee. It makes it a bit easier to try something like this without making a $100 commitment.

    • I have had terrible plantar faceitis for the past 2 years…even had cortisone shots in my heels…nothing worked until I came upon some mbt shoes and have been wearing them since oct 1. I wore them from the time I woke up in the morning til nighttime and my heels are so much better…I am terrified to wear anything else…summer is here and the mbt sandals are hideous so I am in a quandrey (sp)? any suggestions???

      • SP: Quandary: quite a pickle.

        I agree, these shoes though they are great for your feet, look like orthopaedic shoes for people with diabetes. I’ve been made fun of for wearing these shoes, constantly. One time, I wore a pair to dance at a club. But hey, I danced all night without pain.

        What I suggest is try FitFlops for the summer time. They look great and will give your feet a workout as well. http://www.fitflop.com/
        For plantar fasciitis, I would suggest stretching your ankles and feet daily and perform exercises, like taking a stick and put it under your feet and roll it on the floor. Also, put a towel beneath your feet and crunch up the towel by curling your toes. Just know that MBTs and other shoes like it can make you have achilles tendonitis and contracted achilles tendon with prolonged wear. so all good things in moderation. hope this helps.

        dr. lieu

  11. Skechers = Rip Off of MBT. ’nuff said.

    That being said just about everything Skechers sells is rip off of real quality footwear.

    Dont buy the Skechers junk.

  12. Unless you actually wear the shoe. Please don’t comment on what you think they might do for you by their looks. If you wear MBT shoes then comment on them ONLY. It doens’t matter what you do for a living, comment on only what you have personally experienced, not on what you think.

  13. One note about the Fit Flops — they are not for people with high arches! I tried to wear these several times, but the straps kept cutting into the tops of my feet. No flexibility at all there. I had to give them away because if I had worn them long enough to get any benefit they would have rubbed my feet raw.

  14. I hear a lot of people who have very flat feet having problems with these types of shoes in general and it seems despite brand. I am about to go try the sketchers myself since I like the style choices and majority of reviews for them are positive on sites like Amazon and many blog comments as well.

    Like the author I am weary of off brands like K-marts. Chances are they are a rip off of looks but probably not the same quality.

    I had never even heard of MBT before Sketchers came out with these shoes so the one good thing is Sketchers brought us into awareness of this type of shoe in the market. I may try to find both so I can compare the feel of the shoes before I buy.

    I will spend the money for a high quality shoe I like most. Its cheaper than a gym membership to get these shoes and go walk in the park (or mall if its cold).

  15. I just ordered the Thera shoes from Kmart.com – I figure since they are all so weird looking why buy the MBT’s for so much $. To my surprise the Thera Shoes are leather uppers.

    btw this week they are on sale at Kmart for $24.99 and it’s buy 1 get 1 half off!! How can you not give them a try?

  16. Has anyone tried the Curves Leg-Toning sneaker by AVON? I really want a pair of the Skechers Shape-Ups but I sell AVON and I can get the Curves shoes considerably cheaper. Anyone know how they compare to the Skechers brand?

    • You really have to try both pair, walk around a bit and compare them on your feet. I still think MBTs are the best, though they are more expensive, they will last you a while! 🙂

    • ive used both the avon curves shoes and the sketchers shape ups and i would definently recommend the sketchers. they are a bit more money but they are so much more confortable then the avon brand. The avon curves was like walking on a log really and the sketchers have so much more cushion and padding its like walking on a cloud. So if you can get the sketchers.

  17. Pingback: MBT versus Sketchers Shape Ups | Pro-Sports

  18. Okay well, I’ve looked around and I was reading about the shape-ups and about other toning shoes and some people have said that they were having ankle/foot trouble with shape-ups and other toning shoes. As in they had to go to the doctor and apparently they really screwed their feet up. I wanted some toning shoes of my own, but I don’t want to blow my money on shoes that give me foot problems. Can you clear this up? Maybe this only pretains to a certain age group? But have you ever heard anything like that?

    • hey, if you wear the shoes moderately, they shouldn’t give you problems. some problems may include achilles tendonitis and possibly ankle sprains if the shoes are too loose. you can always try the shoes and don’t wear them for more than 30 minutes a day and do some ankle stretches. why not buy a pair, try them, wear them moderately and at the first signs of pain, stop? I have horrible ankle pain but after I wore the shoes, I stopped having the ankle pain. the shoes aren’t for everyone, of course, so the only answer is to try them yourself.

  19. I just wanted to let you know that the amount you spend on shoes does not dictate how long they will last. After about the $80 mark in running shoes they all last about the same km’s (miles) as each other, it is just the impact that is affected. Therefore if you’re doing the same high impact running in two different shoes, you can expect them to last about the same amount of time. this has LONG been an assumption in the athletic shoe world that the more you pay the longer they will last. This is false, you will simply be able to absorb greater (NOT more) impact. Most athletic shoes are designed to be worn 8-12 months max before replacement (under normal use). Wearing them everyday all day will result in them needing to be replaced sooner as this is not what athletic shoes are designed for.

  20. Your review was terrible! I was looking for an unbiased, scientific review of shoes based upon trial not looks. I will never read anything that you have written again…a waste of time to only skim your article. >:{

    • you’d have to have a lot of money and time and people to have “scientific reviews” of these shoes. and even scientific reviews that are empirical evidence based aren’t completely unbiased. there’s no need for you to be so annoyed and hating when I offer a free review here.

  21. I own 4 pair of the Therashoes. I LOVE them. They are very well made and I am a racewalker walking between 6 to 10 miles per day. These shoes have held up and I wear them every day.I rotate my shoes as I feel they will last longer that way and was lucky enough to get them BOGO half off. I have also talked other people into buying them. They look at my legs and say wow you have the new Sketchers they must work nice you have great legs. I tell them no and direct them to Kmart and then see them walking in the park and every one of them has looved their Therashoes.
    I also have another shoe by Danskin from Walmart.It is a lighter weight shoe then the Therashoe but I also feel I am getting results from them. On another note they are less expensive the the Therashoe running at 24.99 but the first pair I bought had issues. The side seam tore just a small tear after only a week of wear and I took them back. I thought maybe that was a fluke so exchanged them for another pair. I have had no problems with the new pair.
    I have not tried the Reebok tone shoes but HAVE tried the easytones by LA Gear. I can’t really post a review on those yet as I really LOVE the way the Therashoes and Danskins make my feet feel.

  22. They Ryn is the only Rocker Sole product that is FDA approved. They are Korean, and are made at the BEST factories in the world. I think they are more stable than the MBT, or the Skechers Shape-up, so they are safer, and still offer all of the benefits. Not to mention that they will hold together for 3-5 years.

    • ‘FDA approved’ more than likely means that the Koreans paid quite a sum of money to your FDA to have their products so tagged. Don’t be so blind and gullible to the workings of these organisations and the relationship between them and manufacturers. We the consumers are the ones being ‘taken’!

      Do your own research, even if it means spending the money to buy a couple different pairs to self-test….if you are so inclined.

  23. I bought a pair of orthashoes yesterday and already I notice my knee pain is subsiding!
    Does anyone know how long it takes to see a change with regards the toning of legs and bum please.

  24. If only barefeet all the time out of the house was optional but this Canada where our waters are cold six months of the year. But then again some people go naked ice swimming. Hum. I don’t really care the kinds of shoes I wear, inside I am always without socks and shoes.

  25. I bought a pair of Sketcher’s Shape-ups, because my friend loves hers. They only had 4 of the styles in stock, but I tried all of them. Most come so high on my ankle, that they rub, but I found one pair that rubbed less, and only the right ankle. I brought them home to wear on the carpet and rugs, to see if the rubbing went away. By not lacing the top holes, they have stopped rubbing, but after I have them on for a while (walking and standing) my toes begin to ache. They are not too tight in the toes in any direction (I can wiggle my toes freely) but they do begin to feel very hard on the bottom under my toes. I even put disposable shower caps on the bottom of the shoes, so that I could wear them on all of the surfaces in this large house, without scuffing the soles, since I haven’t known from the beginning if I was going to be able to wear them. I have bad circulation, and can use all the help I can get, but have even wondered if that or my really high arches could be part of the problem. Could I be walking on them wrong? Or standing too much? If I take these back, I want to get a different pair that will work, but in this small town, there probably are not going to be many choices of the available shoes made. I want to be able to test any of them out, and I know that I wear different sizes in different shoes, so I do not want to order them. I dance every Sat. night in heels (can’t dance flat footed) so I don’t think the instability of either brand of shoes is a problem. I have been wearing these 4 or 5 hours each day, for about 3 days, but I don’t even have a sore muscle from them — only aching numb-like toes; the whole toe area beyond the ball of the foot.
    I sent these same questions direct to Sketchers, but have received no reply. Can you help me decide what the problem with the shoes is for me?

    • the aching and numbness in the toes sound like a red flag to me. i would return these shoes because it’s been such a hassle for you to wear them comfortably. in my honest opinion, I believe these shoes benefit people with flat feet more than they do for people with high arches. these may not be the shoes for you.

      DPT/CLT Lieu

      • I did return them, and found a different style in another store, “Training”. They have straps over a THINNER shoe tongue. They are not causing the same problems. I think the extra thick tounge may have been pressing against my very small veins, cutting off circulation to the toes. The laces had to be laced so tight across the puffy tongue, in order for the shoe to not slip up and down while wearing them; I believe that caused the problem.

    • I’m wearing the “Training” Sketchers Shap-ups, and they feel great — but I don’t feel anything in my legs and hips from them. I think I am walking correctly..all the way from front to back in the shoes. Could it be that I was already walking the way the shoes MAKE you walk?..or maybe my 3 hours of dancing on Sat. nights are already working those muscles? I still like the shoes, because of their comfort.

  26. Hi! Thanks for your review. I’ve been trying to decide whether to get MBT’s, Reebok’s Easy Tone or Skechers Shape Ups. After reading your review, I’ve scratched Skechers off the list. Now I have to decide between MBT and Reebok. hmmm…

    • I also have a pair of the MBT copies, that K-Mart sells. They are not as soft as the Skechers Shape-ups, but you can actually feel the rocking motion more — but they haven’t made any muscles in my legs or butt hurt either. Maybe I was just already walking the way the shape-up shoes make you walk; I know I have always led with my toes up — don’t know about hitting on the back side of my heel though — it’s still hard to do that even in this kind of shoe. I was mostly interested in the increased circulation feature, however, but don’t know how to tell if it is accomplishing that.

      • any increase in ankle rocking or pumping action should increase circulation in the legs because you’re activating muscles and venous action with each rocking action performed.

  27. Came across your information and saw your comments about the Chung-Shi. The Chung-Shi has both a rocker bottom (with a TRUE negative heel with a 15 or 20 degree pitch), and a roller bottom (somewhat similar to an MBT). Please go to your local Foot Solutions to see, feel and try on these shoes. They are much superior in quality than most of the rocker/roller shoes out there AND they are approved by the FDA as a medical class shoe. This means that if your doctor prescribes a rocker sole your shoes may be covered by your medical insurance. What other shoes can offer that? Chung Shi is a proprietary shoe that is only available in Foot Solutions locations.

    • Linda, see my comments to Heath’s post on ‘FDA approved’. Take a moment to consider how many times the FDA has approved drugs or other consumer products that were just plain wrong and dangerous to our health! Beware, Chung-Shi most likely paid up too.

      • Linda,
        Are you a doctor? The chung shi’s have been around for about 15 years, had the FDA approved them and later found that there was problems they would not be approved anymore! Chung Shi didnt have to pay anyone to get them approved , they researched the technology for years before approving them . The chung shi is not a fad like other so called technology shoes, such as sketchers, the K-Mart knockoffs , wal-mart knockoffs and others trying to make a dollar when their product are worthless! They have been researched and they actually caused more harm then good, they make the knees and ankles roll in which end turn causes a world of issues!

  28. I work with Chung Shi’s I have worked with them for 4 years now and I am have never seen anyone that has been hurt by them . If anything they have saved people from having a hips and knees replaced. They help with postural alignment , one thing is no shoe has arch support and people need to stop blaming shoes for messing up there feet because they thought that shoe had good arch support! Chung shi has been around for years, has wonderful technology and is even considered a class 1 medical device in Euro, in other words insurance will pay for them over there! so before you go talking bad about a product do your research!

  29. Does anyone know WERE can I buy the plataform sandal on the first picture of the page? (the sandals without the back part! which is showed in many colors)

  30. I bought the sketcher toners and bought them after a friend said how great they are, I’m 64 and exercise and walk alot. These shoes hurt my legs so bad after one month causing one knee to swell and the other to turn black and blue. I took them back to store and exchanged for nikes exercise shoes.

  31. I read this blog and thought it was absolutely stupid…..Don’t compare shoes unless you’ve actually worn all of them for the same period of time because it is SOOOO not helpful hearing well I assume they do the same as this type and basing it in the looks too….try them all before actually comparing them.

    • don’t compare men unless you’ve dated all of them. people make judgements on people all the time by looks alone. It’s valid for me to compare shoes by comparing their mechanics from the way they look and feel. It’s called a professional judgement.

  32. I’m looking at getting some good running shoes. I’ve heard a lot about sketchers shape ups and Reebok easy tones and others. Does anyone have any preference or anything on which one is better?

    • Shape ups are preferable to easy tones i would recommend, for runners. less ground reaction forces to your joints with each running step with the shape ups.

      • I want to do more walking in these shoes, and am trying to decide between Skechers Shape-Ups and Reebok Easytones. Which would you recommend for a college student who wants to wear them walking around school, and once in a while power-walking outside and working out with WiiFit?

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