More Proof Consumers Just Love the Quick-Fix Gimmick

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Trendy “toning” sneakers justify their high asking prices ($100 to $200 and up) by saying that their unique rounded soles help wearers to get better workouts, burn more calories, and better tone their butts, legs, and calves compared to normal sneakers. You can understand why consumers love the idea that simply putting on a pair of shoes will get them in better shape. They love this idea so much that they continue to buy into it even though there’s no proof whatsoever it is true.

Early in the summer, I did a post on toning sneakers, and the main point is summed up in a quote from a Johns Hopkins School of Medicine professor, who said:

“Nothing about these shoes has any redeeming value.”

Today, the NY Times takes a look at these shoes—and the amazingly effective advertising pitches behind them—and mentions this salient point:

A recent study by the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit group that certifies fitness trainers, compared three toning shoes — Shape-Ups, EasyTone and MBT — to a standard running shoe by measuring muscle activity in several areas, including calves, buttocks and abdominals.

“Across the board, none of the toning shoes showed statistically significant increases in either exercise response or muscle activation,” the study concluded. “There is simply no evidence to support the claims that these shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone.”

Perhaps it isn’t surprising at all that such products don’t exactly measure up to their lofty claims. I guess we also shouldn’t be surprised that consumers don’t really seem to care that there’s absolutely no proof to these claims. They want to believe a certain sneaker will help them get skinny, and so they believe it.

As a consumer sporting goods analyst quoted in the Times story says:

“Americans love a silver bullet … ‘All I have to do is walk around and I’ll be more fit?’ Americans love solutions like that.”

Essentially, this is the same reason for the success of fad diets, get-rich quick investment schemes, and pretty much every “miracle” product out there. We want to believe in easy quick fixes because we don’t have the discipline, fortitude, and patience for the alternative: solutions that are often painstakingly difficult and slow to achieve. Unfortunately, only solutions achieved by the latter means are likely to have lasting impact on our lives.

As ‘The Simple Dollar’ author Trent Hamm says, breaking bad habits is the biggest challenge to getting and staying out of debt. Likewise, getting in shape and losing weight is mostly about replacing bad habits (fast food, sitting on the couch) with good ones (eating well, regular exercise).

It’d be nice if you could buy something or make a one-time change to get yourself into shape—or out of debt, for that matter. But to truly reach your goals, it doesn’t matter what you say, or what you buy, or what you give a shot once or twice.

What matters is what you do day in, day out, over the long haul.