Skechers Toning Shoe Claims Based on Questionable ScienceSep 17, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP
Millions who believed that Skechers Shape Ups and Tone Ups sneakers would help them lose weight and tone muscle faster will be entitled to a refund, according to the terms of a settlement reached between the manufacturer and consumers who joined a federal class-action lawsuit against the company.
The marketing campaign behind Skechers Shape Ups and Tone Ups sneakers was flawed, the Federal Trade Commission believes, though the terms of the settlement stipulate that the sneaker company needn’t admit any wrongdoing or fault. The $40 million agreed between the company and those who joined a class-action lawsuit calls for consumers who purchased a pair of these uneven-sole “toning shoes” to get a refund, up to $80 depending upon the model of shoe they purchased.
According to a report from The Atlantic magazine’s Web site, the FTC believed Skechers was playing “fast and loose” interpreting data from studies purportedly showing that people who wore the company’s toning shoe line lost more weight and worked muscles more than people wearing traditional sneakers fit for a workout.
Toning shoes became a niche market in the highly-competitive workout, fitness, and sneaker markets. Though they were only on the market for a few years - having mostly been phased out of most stores these days - sales reached the billions as many people believed their unconventional design would provide a benefit to a workout.
Skechers and other manufacturers claimed that the uneven soles on its training sneakers provided more resistance on muscles when a person walked. This worked muscles harder and promoted more weight loss. Though they attempted to show data from studies in it advertisements, the FTC and suing consumers believed that data was misleading and ignored potential hazards from wearing these shoes.
The Atlantic report notes that among the eight studies Skechers cites as its basis for making its marketing claims, each is riddled with flaws. For example, no study includes a research group larger than 20 participants. Further, no study discloses who is funding the research, suggesting that a group that stands to gain in some way from positive reviews may have published it.
Skechers boosted sales by having celebrities endorse the products, including football Hall of Famer Joe Montana and reality TV star Kim Kardashian.
In addition to the false claims charges the company has recently settled, Skechers still faces a litany of personal injury lawsuits from consumers who claim these toning shoes caused them to suffer serious and debilitating injuries, including ruptured Achilles tendons and hamstring muscles.