Consumers who purchased Skechers Shape-ups or other toning shoes made by the company will be eligible for a partial refund from a $40 million settlement that the company made with the Federal Trade Commission and 42 states with class action lawsuits. The settlement is being finalized Wednesday in a federal court in the Northern District of Ohio, according to the FTC.
“Skechers put its foot in its mouth by making unwarranted claims,’’ said David Vladeck, director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection. Ads for Shape-Ups claimed that the sneakers with the rounded bottom toned muscles, improved posture, and encouraged weight loss., while reducing stress on knees and ankles
For consumers who purchased these shoes for $50 to $100, Vladeck added, the “only thing that got a workout was their wallet.’’
Those who own a pair of the toning shoes can apply for a refund on the FTC’s website; claims must be filed within the next eight months.
Skechers released a statement on Wednesday saying it “denies the allegations and believes its advertising was appropriate, but has decided to settle these claims in order to avoid protracted legal proceedings.’’
Last September, the FTC settled with Reebok over false advertising claims for its toning shoes and fitness apparel. Hundreds of thousands of consumers applied for refunds that will be paid out from that $25 million settlement. Vladeck said the FTC will be mailing refund checks within the next few months but hasn’t yet calculated the amount each consumer will receive.
As with Reebok, the amount of the refunds from the new settlement will depend on the number of individuals filing claims.
After reviewing the research on which Skechers was basing its advertising claims, Vladeck said, the FTC determined that “studies were false’’ and that “people were gaining weight’’ while wearing the toning sneakers, rather than losing.
When researchers independently compared toning shoes against traditional sneakers in a small study published last July, they found that toning shoes didn’t promote calorie-burning or muscle-building any better than basic sneakers. As I previously reported, University of Wisconsin researchers tested three toning sneakers — Skechers Shape-Ups, MBT, and Reebok’s EasyTone — against traditional New Balance running shoes (not the toning kind) in 12 physically fit female volunteers who walked on treadmills. There wasn’t any difference in muscle activity in such areas as the calves, quads, back, and abs when the volunteers wore the various toning shoes, compared with the running shoes.