Toning shoes hit the right stride

An ad for FitFlop shoes

FitFlop spokeswoman Katie Neiman shows off a pair of shoes

FitFlops' shoe, the Electra

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: Yesterday we told you about that retail sales report for July -- not good. Outside of cash for clunker trade-ins, Americans aren't buying stuff. But sometimes a product come along
that strikes just the right balance. Marketplace's Stacey Vanek Smith went to the shoe store.


Stacey Vanek-Smith: What if you could get in shape just by wearing something? That's the sales pitch for MBTs

Rich Roe: OK so we're going to set your heel back.

MBTs are funny-looking athletic shoes with thick, rounded bottoms. You kind of rock back and forth on them. Company trainer Rich Roe says if I wear them, my back will stop hurting, my stomach will stop pooching and my legs will look more like... Heidi Klum legs.

Roe: Just start walking. So new muscles are being engaged on the outside of the ankles, peronials are getting stronger.

Homely as they are, toning shoes are the fastest growing category of footwear. Reebok, Sketchers, Curves, and Avon all have versions. They're not cheap -- they can cost a couple hundred dollars, but marketing expert Mary Lou Quinlan is not surprised to see them taking off, even in a recession.

MARY LOU QUINLAN: As marketers, we're always looking for more benefit bang for the buck and the recession calls for even a heavier dose of that. Get in shape without setting foot in a gym. Like, who doesn't want that?

In other words, now that we're strapped, we want our stuff to do more stuff. Hence the next big trend in toning shoes: making the clunky styles look good. FitFlops is focusing on that part of the market. The flip-flops tone your butt and legs in runway worthy styles says spokeswoman Katie Neiman.

KATIE NEIMAN: The electra, the sequins smothered one, the Aurelia, a kind of corseted gladiator. The Snugger, which is this kind of snow boot, felt clogs, suede boots.

FitFlop expects sales to jump 70 percent this year. MBT, which came up with the rounded heel concept is rolling out a new set of styles next year that they say people can proudly wear in public. Marketer Mary Lou Quinlan says if toning shoes get pretty, she's sold.

QUINLAN: I feel like, why not go for this. It might work! That's just it. Maybe it's hope. Maybe it's like cosmetics -- you never stop trying, hoping that there's a quick fix solution.

Quinlan says people will always pay for a quick fix. I mean, getting Heidi Klum legs while you walk to the vending machine... in style? That's recession marketing gold.

I'm Stacey Vanek-Smith for Marketplace.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.

FitFlop spokeswoman Katie Neiman shows off a pair of shoes

FitFlops' shoe, the Electra

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