A toning shoe
Reebok has settled an FTC lawsuit over false claims about the company's toning shoes for $25 million. Photo Credit: Chung Shui/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Toning shoes, which are purported to help tone the lower body, may not be as effective as manufacturers claim. A Federal Trade Commission lawsuit has resulted in Reebok agreeing to a $25 million settlement for making false claims.

Reebok versus FTC

Several years ago, toning shoes hit the market. The shoes have a pronounced bump in the middle of the sole that affects how a person walks. The idea was that the shoes affect balance, forcing a persons’ muscles to compensate, thus providing enhanced exercise.

The Federal Trade Commission took exception to claims made by Reebok concerning its toning shoes, according to the New York Times. The FTC recently filed a complaint accusing Reebok of making unsubstantiated claims about Reebok EasyTone and RunTone shoes.

The company’s literature claimed the shoes would strengthen calf and hamstring muscles by 11 percent more than similar shoes. The shoes were also said to tone the buttocks 28 percent better than competitors’ products. The FTC says these claims lack evidence.

Reebok to recompense

Reebok, according to the Chicago Tribune, agreed to settle the toning shoe lawsuit for $25 million. The company stopped publishing claims about the efficacy of its toning shoes in 2010 when the FTC began investigating.

Consumers, according to the Tribune, can apply for a refund on the FTC’s website, if they purchased Reebok toning shoes and want to be compensated. The refund process is being administered by a federal judge. David Vladeck, head of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, hailed Reebok’s cooperation.

Advertising helped shoes catch on

Advertising campaigns helped toning shoes become a massive sales success. Ad campaigns for Skechers “Shape-Ups” included Kim Kardashian and Joe Montana. According to Time, sales of toning shoes increased 400 percent in 2010. In 2009, toning shoes did about $360 million in sales, increasing to $1 billion in 2010, according to ConsumerReports. This year, sales have declined. Skechers, according to Time, recorded a $21 million loss on its “Shape-Ups” line.

Doctors question toning shoes

A 2009 CNN article quotes several sports medicine physicians, all saying there’s no replacement for hitting the gym. They also say that increased muscle activity is not the same as exercise. One observed that people with a limp have increased muscle activity.

Time magazine quoted a Johns Hopkins doctor as saying people should have “one less bagel a day” and walk one more block instead of wasting $100 on a pair of weirdly-shaped sneakers.

According to Consumer Reports, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recorded 36 injuries from wearing toning shoes as of May 2011. No independent evidence has confirmed any benefits of wearing toning shoes. Skechers was sued in 2010 for false claims regarding “Shape-ups.”


FTC Reebok suit site: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/cases/reebok/index.shtm

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/29/business/reebok-to-pay-in-settlement-over-health-claims.html

Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-reebok-to-refund-25m-for-toning-shoe-claims-20110928,0,7918940.story

CNN: http://articles.cnn.com/2009-08-12/health/shoes.fitness_1_shoes-muscle-activity-podiatric-sports-medicine?_s=PM:HEALTH

Time: http://moneyland.time.com/2011/07/28/the-craze-over-toning-shoes-is-well-over/

Consumer Reports: http://news.consumerreports.org/health/2011/05/as-sales-of-toning-shoes-mount-so-do-injuries.html

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