Reebok Settles FTC Charges Over Toning Shoe Claims

Popular <"">toning shoes that started a trend with promises of shapely buttocks, thighs, and calves—all without ever having to go to a gym—are at the center of an federal settlement.

Reebok will be paying a whopping $25 million in customer refunds as part of a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settlement over accusations the athletic shoe and clothing company falsely advertised its toning shoes as significantly strengthening leg, thigh, and buttock muscles, said Bloomberg Businessweek. Going forward, Reebok is not allowed to make these claims without backing up their promises with science.

“Settling does not mean we agree with the FTC’s allegations,” said Dan Sarro, a Reebok spokesman. “We do not. We have received overwhelmingly enthusiastic feedback from thousands of EasyTone customers,” he added according to Businessweek.

We’ve previously explained that toning shoes, constructed with rocking soles, are meant to stretch leg muscles with every step, and represent the fastest growing segment in the athletic footwear market. Despite the flashy ads and celebrity promos, physician warnings are on the rise, cautioning that toning shoes not only don’t do what they promise, but toning shoe injuries, including changing how one walks, can occur.

The shoes tout the sensation of walking on the beach constructed with intentional instability meant to make the wearer exert more effort to stay balanced. Claims range the gamut: “Get in Shape Without Setting Foot in a Gym,” (Skechers); “EasyTone shoes help tone your butt and legs with every step,” (Reebok); and “Anti-Shoe” will “tone muscles your trainer never knew you had” (MBT). Reebok, New Balance, and Sketchers have all faced lawsuits over their marketing, noted Businessweek; however, this is the first time the government has become involved.

Reebok International Ltd. makes a number of toning products, such as its RunTone running shoes, EasyTone walking shoes and flip flops, and some clothing items, said Businessweek, which noted that Reebok is owned by Adidas AG. Reebok’s toning shoes were among its most popular product launches, released in 2009, and marketing included shapely women in short shorts with one ad stating that the toning shoes would “make your boobs jealous,” noted Businessweek.

The FTC became involved after Reebok marketed its EasyTone footwear as being proven to increase buttock strength and tone by 28 percent and hamstring and calf muscles by 11 percent versus regular walking shoes. “We think this is a real victory for consumers,” said FTC attorney Dana Barragate. “We hope it sends a message to businesses that if they are going to make claims they must be justified,” she added, reported Businessweek. The FTC did not mention if similar action was in place with other shoe makers.

Toning shoes have faced mounting criticism over injuries such as shin splints and sprained and broken ankles, and false claims despite that some shoe makers, including Reebok, have paid for studies on the shoes. Regardless, said Businessweek, the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit fitness organization, conducted a study that found that the toning shoes did not live up to shoe maker claims. Other experts have also said the shoes are more hype than anything else.

We recently reported that an Ohio woman filed a lawsuit against the maker of Skechers Shape-Ups, claiming the shoes had caused her to suffer two fractures in her hips. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff, a restaurant server, had been wearing Skechers Shape-Ups at work for about five months when she began experiencing excruciating pain. An MRI revealed that the plaintiff had sustained fractures in the femoral necks of both hips, and her doctor believes they were the result of wearing Skechers Shape-Ups. The plaintiff underwent surgery to repair her broken hips and was left with six screws in her body.

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