New Balance faces class-action lawsuit alleging its shoes do not tone
Boston sneaker maker New Balance is facing charges in a new class-action lawsuit that it falsely represented the physical benefit of its popular toning shoes that promise consumers a tighter butt and legs.
The lawsuit, filed yesterday in US District Court in Boston, is seeking damages in excess of $5 million on behalf of a California woman, Bistra Pashamova, and other people who have allegedly been harmed by New Balance.
"[Pashamova] was exposed to and saw New Balance's advertising claims, purchased New Balance toning shoes in reliance on these claims, and suffered injury in fact and lost money as a result," the lawsuit said.
Pashamova and her attorney did not return messages seeking comment. New Balance also could not be reached today.
New Balance, which last year launched a multi-million dollar toning shoe campaign, is one of several major sneaker companies that are facing class action lawsuits from consumers in recent months. Toning shoes are designed with an unstable sole so leg muscles have to work harder to maintain balance during everyday activities.
They are the fastest growing segment in the footwear industry and sales were expected to soar last year to roughly $1.5 billion.
But a growing number of consumer complaints and a study last summer by the nonprofit American Council on Exercise found that toning shoes failed to live up to claims made by manufacturers. Some reports of injuries have also raised concerns that the shoes, which costs roughly $100 a pair, could be doing more harm than good.
New Balance has promoted its toning shoes with claims that they increase muscle activation by at least 27 percent and increase calorie burn by up to 10 percent with each step using either a rounded of flexible spring sole. Pashamova, in the lawsuit, is demanding that New Balance "halt the dissemination of this false and misleading advertising message, correct the false and misleading perception New Balance has created in the minds of consumers, and to obtain redress for those who have purchased any New Balance toning shoes."
New Balance spokeswoman Amy Dow, in a previous interview with the Globe, defended the company's sneakers.
"Having tested our products with hundreds of consumers in the lab and field combined, we are confident that increased muscle activation occurs when wearing our toning footwear," Dow said.