body image · fashion · weight loss

Hot pants, wobbly toning shoes, and the latest in skinny making fashion

My father taught me an important life lesson: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. He said it a lot but I likely didn’t learn the lesson for real until I spent my own money on something which claimed to do something it couldn’t. Can’t recall just what that might have been, sea monkeys perhaps? I did buy some. They didn’t look at all like the picture above. I could barely tell if they were alive or dead and I spent a whole week’s allowance on them. I never did get to use the training manual that came with them. But I did learn something. I imagine that’s why my parents first tried to talk me out of mail order sea monkeys from the back of a comic book and then later helped me do it. It was a cheap life lesson at the price of just one week’s allowance.

And now I try to pass the same lesson along to my own kids. Yet, I’m still surprised that products with these larger than life claims exist especially when they are targeted at adults.

No one is more vulnerable than someone who believes she needs to change herself to be worthy and so the worst of these products aim to sell thinned, toned bodies to people who don’t currently have them.

First, it was the wobbly toning shoes. I laughed when they were first on the market, quietly, since a friend had bought some. Since then of course we’ve learned that the miraculous wobbly toning shoes are a scam. They do nothing for toning your legs. You just look silly and feel wobbly.

Sketchers just paid $40 million in damages over its toning running shoes. Read more here. You can also read the Runners Works story here. Similar suits are now underway against Reebok and Vimbram five finger shoes for claims they make about the health benefits of their footwear.

Now, the wobbly shoes didn’t just make false claims. It looks like they also actually hurt people.

Consumer Reports says this:

“Most of the reported injuries were minor, including tendonitis and foot, leg, and hip pain. But 15 complaints reported broken bones, some of which required surgery. Our medical experts say that those types of shoes have rocker-style bottoms that are designed to cause instability, forcing users to engage muscles that are not normally used while walking. But that instability might also lead to turned ankles, falls, and other injuries if the user is not careful. The rocker design is not unique to Skechers, which was cited in most of the reports. Other brands with similar designs include Avia, Champion, Danskin Now, and New Balance, and shoes sold at Sears and Kmart. Reebok has a toning shoe that’s designed differently, but it also causes instability. The above-mentioned brands were also named in injury reports filed with the CPSC.” Read more here.

I’m hoping this sends the wobbly shoe trend to its grave. I have noticed that the thrift stores are full of them.

But like weeds that won’t die, another trend in weight loss clothing has popped up. This time it’s skinny hot pants. The claim is that they burn 11 percent more calories while you exercise and 13 percent more calories even after you stop. I first came across them as a sponsored ad in my Facebook newsfeed.

It seems like a recycled idea to me. In the 1970s you could buy plastic ‘sauna suits’ to do your housework in while losing weight through sweat. Body builders used to use saran wrap to accomplish this effect even though experts say it doesn’t work. You can wrap plastic around your waist, sweat, and lose some water weight but the minute you have a drink it’ll be back.

The new hot pants seem like the same old idea to me. But then maybe much of the target audience weren’t alive through the 1970s.

Fox News asks, Can fat-melting ‘hot pants’ help you lose weight? ABC news also evaluates them here.

Note there’s no research backing up the manufacturer’s claims that has been published in refereed scientific journals and all the obesity researchers interviewed expressed skepticism.

Surprise, surprise.

Oh, and the hot pants also claim to help with trouble areas. You’re supposed to lose more inches in the areas where the special heat panels are located. That sounds a tad unlikely too.  Potential buyers ought to read Newsflash: Spot Reduction/Spot Training Does NOT Work.

When will the first lawsuit begin?

Now I’ve already gone on record as being a bit of a grump about pricey exercise clothing (see Just walk slowly away from that rack of $100 yoga pants) because I think it’s a dangerous myth that fitness requires specialized expensive clothing and pricey personal trainers.  However, at least Lululemon claims only to make your butt look good. It doesn’t make any claims about helping to shrink it. Oh wait, there was the Lululemon seaweed scandal. Yoga pants were supposed to contain seaweed which would release amino acids and marine vitamins and minerals into your skin while you worked out. However, tests showed the pants contained no actual seaweed. Smells like sea monkeys to me.


14 thoughts on “Hot pants, wobbly toning shoes, and the latest in skinny making fashion

  1. Ah! Sea monkeys AKA brine shrimp. I, too, kept these when I was a child, but for different reasons. I fed them to my siamese fighting fish ( beta splendis). They looked nothing like the drawing on the package and I recall none ever asking in any way, shape, or form asking to be trained. The fish found them tasty.

  2. Sea Monkeys! Man, the fact that someone actually marketed and sold brine shrimp as pets for generations of kids is still mind-blowing to me. At least our excuse was that we were young. I don’t know what the excuse is for people who pay more than $100 for a pair of “fat-melting” pants which, by the way, you still have to work out while wearing. How convenient, right? Work out a bunch and the fucking PANTS take the credit for the effects. It’s asinine.

    1. “Work out a bunch and the fucking PANTS take the credit for the effects.” This just made me LOL in the middle of a coffee shop….

    2. Work out a bunch and the fucking PANTS take the credit for the effects. It’s asinine.

      It’s even more asinine to think that there are those who would GIVE the credit to the pants instead of the person acknowledging the effort they’ve put into working out.

  3. It brings to mind the old adage “a fool and his money are soon parted” !
    On the issue of wobbly shoes, the other problem is of course that by introducing instability and getting muscles to fire, it serves to reinforce bad postural habits (which most of us have) by strengthening already overactive muscles.

  4. Oh how disappointed I was with my sea monkeys! But in retrospect I think it would have been terrifying if they actually started to look and behave like the sea monkey family I saw in the picture. Great post!

  5. I remember that ad for sea monkeys. I got them too. As I recall, the little plastic tank had magnifiers built in so that you could get a closer look at those tiny shrimp. Maybe you were supposed to fool yourself into thinking that if you could just magnify them enough you’d see that they really did look like those mer-people.

    BTW, back then “hot pants” meant something a little different than what’s described in this post, so I was a little confused at first…

  6. 6th paragraph: I think you mean Vibram Five Fingers shoes, not Vivian. 🙂 (Note: I own them and like them, though I like non-divided-toe minimal shoes better.

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