Published: May 16, 2012
No more ifs, ands or butts about the claims that Skechers USA made for its goofy-looking toning shoes.
The company has agreed to pay $40 million to settle claims that it deceived customers by saying its Shape-ups shoes would help people who wore them shed pounds and tone their abs, buttocks and legs, the Federal Trade Commission said.
The FTC alleged there's no evidence the Skechers shoes would do a better job by those measures than regular old gym shoes.
If you bought Skechers' line and the shoes, you can now apply for a refund here.
"Skechers' unfounded claims went beyond stronger and more toned muscles," said a statement by David Vladeck, head of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The company even made claims about weight loss and cardiovascular health." So, Vladeck said, the Skechers settlement should send a message to advertisers: "shape up your substantiation or tone down your claims."
Previously, the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit group, compared toning shoes from Skechers and two other companies with running shoes. The group concluded there is "simply no evidence to support the claims that these shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone."
The "studies found that there was no significant difference between any of the toning shoes and the standard running shoe," ACE's Todd Galati told All Things Considered two years ago. "These shoes are not a magic pill. It is the walking that will make a difference in your life. Not the shoe," he said.
Under the settlement the company can't say its toning shoes strengthen muscles, lead to weight loss or do much of anything related to health, unless the claims "are true and backed by scientific evidence," the FTC said.
Skechers claims had also been the subject of class-action litigation and an investigation by state attorneys general across the country.
For its part, Skechers said it continues to "vigorously deny the allegations made in these legal proceedings and looked forward to vindicating these claims in court," according to a statement by David Weinberg, the company's chief financial officer. But, he said, "Skechers could not ignore the exorbitant cost and endless distraction of several years spent defending multiple lawsuits in multiple courts across the country." [Copyright 2013 NPR]