Skechers Shape Ups Land Company Million Fine for Toning-Shoe Claims
Skechers Settles Suit Over Shape-up Sneakers
The shoe company has to pay up to million to the Federal Trade Commission for exaggerating the muscle-building action of its Shape-ups.
By Sushma Subramanian
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THURSDAY, May 17, 2012 —The fitness benefits of Skechers' Shape-up sneakers, which the company says build muscle by keeping the wearer off balance, may be based on shaky science.
Buyers of Skechers Shape-ups or the brand's other toning shoes will be eligible for a partial refund from a million settlement that the company made with the Federal Trade Commission and 42 states Wednesday.
The FTC said the company exaggerated research findings in ads that its Resistance Runner shoes increased muscle activation by up to 85 percent for posture-related muscles and 71 percent for glutes. The commission also said that Skechers failed to disclose that a chiropractor who touted the benefits of the bulky sneakers was paid for his endorsement and was married to a marketing executive at the Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based shoe company.
“Skechers put its foot in its mouth by making unwarranted claims,” David Vladeck, director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, told the Boston Globe. The brand’s Resistance Runner, Toners, and Tone-ups shoes were included in the settlement.
Celebrities Kim Kardashian and Brooke Burke were spokeswomen in commercials for the shoes, showing off their shapely behinds. “Once my Skechers Shape-ups are on, I’ll be toning muscles and burning calories,” Kardashian said in the ads.
Consumers React to the Settlement
Consumers who want a refund can apply on the FTC's Website. Claims must be filed within the next eight months.
"They did not work for me!" Tawna Marhsall, an Everyday Health reader said on the site's Facebook page. "After only a month, they started to hurt my feet. Seen many ladies with there ankles turned in.Never again will i buy shapeups."
"Sketchers Shape Up shoes don't actually make you tone?" tweeted comedic actor Jack Black in response to the news. "Next they'll be telling me my PowerBalance bracelet isn't actually balancing my ions." Some athletes have used the special bracelets, which claim to use holographic technology to improve a wearer's balance.
In a statement Wednesday, Skechers said it "denies the allegations and believes its advertising was appropriate, but has decided to settle these claims in order to avoid protracted legal proceedings."
In September, the FTC settled with shoe company Canton, Mass.-based Reebok over false fitness claims about its EasyTone and RunTone sneakers. Vladeck told the Boston Globe that hundreds of thousands of consumers applied for refunds to be paid from the million settlement, but no final tallies have been calculated to determine how much consumers will receive.
The Skechers settlement amounts will also depend on how many consumers apply for refunds.
Do Toning Sneakers Work At All?
A 2010 study by the American Council on Exercise showed that many brands of shoes with curved soles don't live up to the hype. The team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse monitored the benefits of exercise on women who wore the special sneakers and those who wore regular shoes. The results:the special-soled sneakers don't burn more calories or improve muscle tone any better than regular shoes.
Still, some say they may have other benefits. Medical professionals have used rocker bottom shoes for decades to help treat foot and ankle pain, gait problem, arthritic conditions and other deformities, according to the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine website. "Stable and medical rockers are great for reducing certain motion in the toe joints or off-loading pressure from a particular area of the foot," says David A. Francis, on the webpage for his office, Green Country Podiatry in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He notes that they also work by improving posture and balance and toning muscles.
Experts say Skechers greatly exaggerated the muscle-building benefits.
Regardless of lawsuits, some consumers say they'll continue to stick with the clunky-looking sneakers.
Video: Local attorney secures million settlement in Skechers false advertising lawsuits
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