Toning shoes are marketed as footwear fitness miracles guaranteed to burn calories, tone leg muscles and deliver "buns of steel." The airways are peppered with advertisements lauding their merits. Millions of people have rushed out to buy them, hoping for a shortcut to a trim, toned body. But before you shell out your hard-earned money on a pair of these pricy "magic" shoes, perhaps you should do a bit of homework.

According to the American Council on Exercise, people who wear "toning shoes" instead of regular athletic shoes don't burn more calories or enjoy a magical fitness transition. Studies show that, over time, the shoes may actually have an adverse effect on the wearer's gait that could eventually lead to serious problems.

The shoe companies that manufacture toning shoes claim they are a quick and easy fitness solution. Simply wear the shoes, they say, and go about your normal activities and soon you will notice a difference in your weight and your leg muscles. The manufacturers contend that the shoes make your legs and core muscles work "harder" which results in more calories burned and strong, sexy legs.

At first glance, the basic theory sounds logical to consumers. Toning shoes all have an unstable design which forces the wearer's body to constantly struggle to remain balanced, much like a balance ball that is used in a gym to strengthen the core muscles. Unfortunately what works on the balance ball is not transferable to footwear.

Many people who wear the shoes think they work because they initially feel soreness in different muscles which they interpret as a toning effect. Because the shoes promise to "tone muscles you never knew you had" it is understandable that consumers would feel that way. In reality, the soreness is based on the need to maintain balance and subsides over time as the body adjusts to the shoe. But the soreness is just that - soreness- and it is not associated with or correspondent to an uptick in muscle use or fitness.

A study conducted by the American Council on Exercise found that none of the toning shoes on the market offer a statistically significant increase in either exercise response or muscle activation when compared to normal athletic shoes. Scientists at the Exercise and Health Program at the University of Wisconsin conducted a separate study which yielded similar results.

If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is. The only "magic shoes" we're aware of are the fictitious red glittery ones worn by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Regular athletic shoes have all the magic you need. Hit the gym, eat a balanced diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle. That's the only fitness solution that really works.