Your legs are not going to look like Marlene Dietrich's after spending a summer wearing Scholl Exercise Sandals. On the other hand, your feet won't look like they've been through Marine boot camp, either.
This year more than 2 million pairs of American feet will have stepped into the contoured wooden sandals with the buckled instep strap. The footwear (about $14) is based on a Scandinavian design and was introduced in this country 13 years ago.
The School Co., in its advertising, asserts that the gripping action of the toes against the wooden ridge on the sandal's base results in better leg tone.
Well, according to several area podiatrists, the sandals are safe and confortable footwear, but provide no noticeable beneficial effect to feet and legs.
"Basically, they are like any other article of clothing," says podiatrist Dr. Stuart Tessler. "If it feels comfortable and looks right, go ahead. They're not therapeutic, but they're nice for summer."
Tessler, and several other foot doctors, said that while the gripping necessary to keep the sandal on the foot does provide some exercise to the muscles of the foot, the result is so minor as to be unmeasurable.
Before grip-toeing down the road of life in your Scholls, foot experts do have a few words of caution:
Break them in. Wear the sandals for an hour the first day and increase the length of wear gradually.
Try them on. The sandals are sold from display stands in drug, discount and grocery stores, as well as Scholl shops. Don't just pick out your size and take them home without making sure they fit.
"If it fits, it's one of the best sandals around," says Dr. Harold Glickman. "But not every woman has a perfect fit. And if it doesn't fit just right, it could lead to instability at the ankles and excessive friction at the bottom of the foot, which could cause calluses."
The doctors also warn that -- as with any sandal -- there is a danger of blisters from the strap (which can be minimized by wearing stockings).
Joy Goldsmith, product manager for the Chicago-based company, is somewhat vague about the scientific basis on which the leg-toning claims are made.
"There has been at least one biomechanical study showing that the sandals increase flexibility in the foot," she says. "But the way your legs look is in the eye of the beholder."