Skechers Shape-Ups: Comfort and Fitness on the Go

words_Sara Accettura
images_Zac Dubasik

I have been hearing a lot about the Skechers Shape-ups lately, and it’s hard not to be curious about the claims. You can firm muscles by just walking in the shoes – count me in! When I initially opened the Skechers Shape-Ups Motivation box, I was definitely surprised. I knew they had a taller sole, but I just wasn’t expecting to see something quite that tall. My first thought was they looked like shoes a cartoon character would wear, or orthotics. Even so, I was still excited to get them on my feet.

Initial Reaction

The shoes come with a detailed exercise guide and a DVD that explains the technology behind the shoes, some simple moves you can do with the shoes along with some short exercise routines you can do in Shape-Ups. I read through the basic instructions quickly and tried them on. My first impression was once again shock; the shoes were incredibly comfortable. I have a wider type of foot and I usually wear between an 8.5 – 9.5 in shoes, and the 9.5 in the Shape-Ups fit well. They are a little on the wide side, so I have to lace my shoes up tightly, but there are no type of fit issues at all.

My first couple of steps in the shoes were awkward. I tend to underpronate (or walk more on the outside of my foot), but in these shoes, I was overpronating (or walking more on the inside of my foot). I did the simple exercise the directions recommended, which was to stand with feet hip width apart and roll backward and forward on the shoes until you hit a comfortable, balanced position. That helped me a lot, and whenever I have felt myself overpronating while walking, I would just do that simple exercise to get everything aligned again.

What do they do?

According to Skechers, these shoes are designed to promote weight loss, strengthen the back, firm calf and buttock muscles, reduce cellulite and tone your thighs, increase cardiovascular health, improve posture, and reduce stress on knee and ankle joints. That’s a pretty tall order, right?!

What makes these shoes so special is mainly what’s found in the soles of the shoes. The upper is pretty standard – mine, which were the Skechers Shape-Ups Motivation, had a leather / mesh upper with metallic edging, a lace-up front and a padded collar and tongue. But below that is where it gets interesting. The insole is comprised of soft EVA, a firm polyurethane frame is used to stabilize the foot, and all of that sits atop a dual-density midsole that reaches around 1.5 inches at the center and contains the magical Kinetic Wedge made of soft foam for shock absorption. The very bottom of the shoe is protected by a pretty standard rubber outsole.

The claim is that since we usually walk on hard surfaces that take a toll on our joints and entire bodies, Shape-ups offer wearers a soft surface to combat those negative impacts. The combination of the soft foam insert under the heel, the dual-density midsole and the rolling bottom mimic walking on sand or thick carpet, which strengthens muscles we don’t usually use. According to their website: “you will feel your heel sink to the ground as you step, roll forward as your weight shifts to its center, and push off with your toes. This movement will result in stronger leg, buttock, back and abdominal muscles as you stabilize your steps.”

Because you will be using all of these new muscles, the recommendation is that you don’t start off wearing these shoes all day long. Rather, they recommend wearing them 25 to 45 minutes per day until your body adjusts to walking in the shoes.

Walking Around Town

My first experience in the shoes was just your normal around-town type of walking. I went to the dentist, the grocery store, etc. I had been training for a half-marathon at the time, so I wasn’t so much worried about the adjustment period. My calculations were correct; I had no pain or discomfort the next day. But, if you’re not used to using your leg muscles for any type of intense activity, then I’d recommend warming up to these shoes slowly.

So, while I didn’t notice any shocking muscle aches, I did notice that I wanted to get up and walk a little more. It’s like wearing a pedometer – you just have that extra motivation to get moving a little more than you usually would. So, I know that I walked a lot more, and I can definitely say that my feet felt wonderful. I did not have any aches after a full day of walking. None at all. These shoes are extremely comfortable, and I agree wholeheartedly with their claim that these shoes will protect your joints, back and feet from hard surfaces. I also caught myself rolling backwards and forwards on them when I was waiting in line or standing around, which I know had to be doing some service to my calves.

Another plus to these shoes is that people notice them everywhere you go; it’s kind of like being a celebrity. There are also kindred Shape-Ups wearers everywhere, and once I had on my shoes, I was much more aware of them. I had a lot of interesting conversations with fellow Shape-Ups wearers, and they pretty much all agreed with me: these shoes might not replace your time working out or going to the gym, but they are extremely comfortable.

Fitness Walking

Since I really wanted to put these shoes to the test, I decided to fitness walk a few miles in them around my neighborhood. For a couple weeks I walked strenuously for about 2 miles each time in these shoes for a total of about 8 times. It was immediately noticeable that these shoes did something regular shoes did not. Even when I was walking on level ground, I felt like I was walking on a slight incline. When I hit the hilly parts, I could really feel the burn in my calves – and remember, this is still during my half-marathon training, so to be able to feel anything in my calves during a 2-mile walk totally impressed me. These shoes definitely step up the intensity of a fitness walking routine, and I would recommend them to anyone who walks regularly or is interested in starting.

The mesh upper was very breathable and comfortable during these fitness walking routines, which I was thankful for, because I definitely broke into a sweat! Even with the laces tied as tightly as they would go, I never once felt them digging into foot. There was ample padding in the upper, for which I was extremely thankful. When I got moving faster, I did not notice a lot of overpronation at all, which I attributed to the fact that I had gotten into a good pace and was able to maintain that throughout my walks. Overall, these shoes were very enjoyable to workout in.


While I don’t think that these shoes will replace any gym time, I’m a big fan of working any type of fitness activity into everyday life. It doesn’t always work like planned, though, like the time my son and I ran the mile to our local grocery store to get sushi and then carried it back home in a backpack. By the time we got back home, it was a giant mass of rice and vegetables that we had to eat with forks. Healthy, but not aesthetically pleasing! I can kind of compare these shoes to that experience – these shoes definitely help boost the intensity of your walking experience, mostly during more strenuous walking routines, but I have to be honest, they are not the most aesthetically pleasing shoes to wear around town.

That being said, they are one of the most comfortable pairs of shoes I have worn. So, once you couple comfort and fitness in a shoe that can be worn daily, does it matter so much how they look? You can always wear them all day and know that when you put on the heels at night, your feet will be ready to take a little beating, especially since they are going back to that 1.5-inch soft-foam comfort the next day. And another bonus – because of that thick foam and rubber sole, I did not notice any significant wear on the soles of the shoes and the looped lace eyelets, or ghilley eyelets, held up well for all of my extra-tight lacing.

I would highly recommend Skechers Shape-Ups to anyone who stands on hard surfaces during a full day of work as well as to anyone who is looking to incorporate a little bit of extra muscle movement into their daily life. To those who regularly engage in fitness walking, I also recommend these shoes – I’m sure you will feel a difference in your legs while working out. And for all of you men out there, keep in mind is Shape-Ups are not just for women; there are Men’s Skechers Shape-Ups, too!

*Performance Review shoes provided by Eastbay*