Toning shoes for kids? A marketing ploy by big name sneaker manufacturers, or do the shoes really have benefits for the little ones? The thoughts on either side of the Atlantic appear to differ considerably, with the British toning brand FitFlop doing better than ever, and mothers in love with the stylish sandals for themselves, as well as believing them to be great for the kids. Skechers on the other hand has caused a media frenzy of criticism for its footwear, not because of the properties of the shoes, but more for how they are targeting children, and in some reports, even sexualizing little girls. Is it just a storm in a teacup, or do the critics have a point?
Take British toning shoe brand FitFlop. The brand was started by Marcia Kilgore, of Bliss Spa fame. The shoes were originally designed to turn exercise downtime into more of a workout. The brand was launched in the spring of 2007, and to say they were something of a footwear sensation would be an understatement. The shoes sold out in their first summer, and even successive summers when the brand had stepped up production, supply could barely keep up with the demand. Now as the doom-mongers are saying that the toning shoes craze is over, the brand has just picked up yet another accolade, that of Drapers Shoe of the Year. (Drapers, is a leading fashion magazine in the UK). The nation is still in love with the FitFlop, and rightly so. But not just for the muscle activation, but for the style, the comfort, and the posture correction. The shoes are in the full range of adult sizes, as well as in children’s sizes of 1-4, across the popular models such as the FitFlop Electra and the Hyka, and Gogh.
Across the water, there is Skechers. The Skechers Shape Ups range has long been a favorite with American women, and the brand has long been popular for producing children’s shoes too. However, the brand has received criticism in recent months for its line of toning shoes. Whilst the FitFlop is still pulling in awards, Skechers has experienced a dip in first quarter profits, and is currently being torn to shreds (metaphorically speaking) over the internet over its latest incarnation of the infamous Shape Ups, Skechers Shape Ups for girls.
The furore is coming from mothers groups and internet newsgroups who are trying to whip up a little hysteria against the All American brand, claiming that by making its Shape Ups for girls that they are anything from ill advised to evil incarnate, depending on which website you care to visit. The claim that Skechers are sexualizing young girls with their shoes, and are creating poor body image at an early age really doesn’t wash with me. Girls will not be buying them to firm up their bottoms and improve lower body appearance, and a pair of shoes and the current marketing really doesn’t suggest that the shoes will stop girls getting fat, or will make them thin. Teenagers may well think that, but not 7 to 8 year old girls –they may already be thinking that, but that’s not the fault of Skechers.
As the FitFlop claims another best shoe of the year award, Skechers seem to be attracting people who hate them with a passion! FitFlop are actually being sold in the United States, and the same pressure groups are not on that company’s back. Why is this? What is FitFlop putting in their toning sandals to sedate mothers? Skechers could do with some.
Of course it’s not the shoes that are the problem, nor is it whether the shoes actually work. It is the attempts to market the shoes directly to the kids which seems to be the real problem. Kids have a wonderful way of getting what they want through dogged persistence and breaking down the will of parents down until they finally succeed in their plans. Whilst some parents have been claiming that the shoes are inducing poor body image at an early age, kids will want them because they’re bouncy, they give them some height, and also because they are sparkly and pink.
With FitFlop, the marketing has been at parents, and not convincing parents that they need the shoes for their kids, but by offering shoes that the parents love, find incredibly comfortable, and could well be giving an extra hand to work off a few calories. FitFlop produce the shoes for kids, but have left it to parents to decide if they should buy them. This to me is a far more responsible way to market the shoes, and if Skechers took that route then maybe they would have avoided the furore that followed. However, since the adverts for Shape Ups are in the same vein as their sneakers adverts for kids, it’s understandable that they stuck with their winning formula.
The verdict? If you want your kids to stay fit and healthy, and they want the shoes that mummy has, or their friends have, then is it really such a big deal? To me its not. Besides, child obesity is on the rise, and something needs to be done about it. A new pair of sneakers certainly isn’t the solution, but it may go some way to make sure that it doesn’t become more of a problem.
Kids on both sides of the Atlantic could do with a bit more exercise, and any footwear which can help in even a small way has its place on the market.
In both countries child obesity is rising fast. In the United States, 16% of kids aged 7 to 19 are overweight. The UK has the highest obesity rates in Europe, and getting kids active and exercising is vital to help prevent problems in future life. Whilst Skechers have had some backlash over their advertising, the shoes have their place and if they can help kids to prevent excess calories from turning into excess fat, then they are not such a bad thing.
Why buy toning shoes and wellness footwear for your kids
There are advantages to buying this type of shoe for your children, and it’s not about toning the lower body as it is the adults. The shoes offer:
- Posture correction
- Increased cushioning to ease the joints
- Stimulates blood circulation
- Improves conditioning in the feet
- Encourages increased muscle activation
The research that has gone into the FitFlop sandals design appears to be more open, and well researched that that of Skechers. British women love the styles, the feel, the cushioning and the support. They find them incredibly comfortable to wear, and making them in a kid’s model is perfectly acceptable.
With Skechers it’s a little less clear cut, as whilst there are case studies to demonstrate their effectiveness, opinion appears to be divided. Some even claim the shoes to be a little too unstable. However compared to a set of Wheelies, they seem positively rock solid.
On the whole, despite the hubbub about how Skechers have chosen to market their shoes, Shape Ups appear to have their place, and could well be beneficial for kids to get a little extra help staying fit and healthy.
Where to buy Toning shoes and wellness shoes for kids
I’ve had a look around at prices for the shoes, and if you will not be able to resist your daughter’s charms, or guile, at extracting a pair of shoes from you, you can make the whole process a lot less painful by visiting one of the following websites.
Price Comparison Skechers for Girls
USA & Canada
Price Comparison FitFlop Sandals
UK & Ireland
Cloggs– Voted by Drapers fro best online brand of the year, in addition to FitFlop as the best shoe of the year. Since they have the FitFlop in abundance, you probably don’t need to look anywhere else.