Skechers Shape Ups shoes for kids has caused quite the controversy since their release, including a petition at change.org to have the line discontinued. Parents and professionals are disturbed that toning shoes are being made for and marketed to elementary school students.
The commercial aimed at young girls seems to be especially concerning to parents. The commercial in question does not specifically say anything about toning, but it does say that these shoes offer “everything a girl could want, looking good, having fun,” with “extra height and bounce,” which, of course, is too good to be true. Parents are concerned that the thin cartoon characters and emphasis on appearance is encouraging unhealthy attitude towards body image in young girls. Parents are also concerned that the commercial contains a shot of boys dressed as junk food following the singer; it certainly is a confusing image. I would be interested to hear what you think this is communicating to young girls?
I was able to consult with several professionals who are concerned that any kind of toning shoe can cause injuries and long-term health problems for both children and adults. Jacqueline M. Sutera, DPM, a surgically trained midtown Manhattan podiatrist and spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association who was recently on the Dr. Oz show has been reminding parents that “the shoe’s rocker bottom can cause ankle and foot injury especially if the children are running around and very active. We have to remember that children are not small adults. Their growth plates are open, and can potentially be damaged by altering their gait. Also, the growing child’s soft tissues (ligaments, muscles, tendons, etc) are also still maturing and susceptible to injury and damage.”
Wendy Willis, MA, FAFS, personal trainer/movement specialist and Fellow of Applied Functional Science from the Gray Institute for Functional Transformation, states that these shoes “will cause long term affects on the rest of the body (usually knee pain, lower back pain, and neck pain),” but “that is only one thing that [she has] a problem with.” She continues to explain that she has many concerns and “these shoes are very disturbing for adults – I am appalled that we would subject children to them also. They limit so much movement – jumping, dodging, lateral movement… Kids are already not moving enough. Legs should be toned by moving in all sorts of ways. NOT ONE!!!”
Parents who are willing to spend up to $100 for toning shoes for their children may need to step back and look at their own motivations and what message purchasing such shoes will communicate to your children. If your child is requesting such shoes, it is an excellent time to assess if your child is susceptible to advertising or if she is having body image concerns. You can say no to shoes that may damage your child’s health, but YES to helping her improve her body image by working together to create healthier meals, getting active as a family, and helping your child find positive personality traits in herself. If you are wearing such shoes yourself, please know that your child will be concerned about toning her legs and buttocks and will want to wear shoes just like you. You may be willing to risk injury to yourself, but are you willing to risk your daughter doing the same to her developing body?