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Skechers to pay $40 million over deceptive ads

Photo courtesy of Skechers

Kim Kardashian was part of the Skechers ad campaign called "deceptive" by the FTC.

Skechers, the company that makes those extremely popular Shape-ups toning shoes, has agreed to pay $40 million in refunds to settle charges of deceptive advertising brought by the Federal Trade Commission. 

(Click here to get the facts about this settlement and instructions on how to file for a refund if you are eligible.) 

You’ve probably seen the ads for Shape-Ups. They say you can “get in shape without setting foot in a gym.” Some of the ads feature celebrities, such as Kim Kardashian and Brooke Burke. 

Skechers USA said its shoes provided more weight loss and muscle toning and strengthening (of the buttocks, legs and abdominal muscles) than regular fitness shoes. 

The FTC complaint charges Skechers with falsely representing that it had clinical studies to back up those claims. The commission alleges the company made similar deceptive claims about its Resistance Runner, Toners and Tone-Up shoes.

“Skechers’ unfounded claims went beyond stronger and more toned muscles. The company even made claims about weight loss and cardiovascular health,” said David Vladeck, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a written statement. “The FTC’s message, for Skechers and other national advertisers, is to shape up your substantiation or tone down your claims.” 

In a press release, Skechers denied the allegations and "believes its advertising was appropriate, but has decided to settle these claims in order to avoid protracted legal proceedings."

Some of the ads for Shape-Ups featured an endorsement from a chiropractor, Dr. Steven Gautreau, who said his recommendation was based on an “independent” clinical study he conducted. The FTC’s lawsuit alleges this study did not produce the positive results claimed. Dr. Gautreau is married to a Skechers marketing executive and the company paid him to conduct the study. The ads did not disclose this information. 

Skechers will pay $40 million to settle charges in an advertising case, reports CNBC's Darren Rovell.

Under the settlement announced today, Skechers is barred from making claims about strengthening, weight loss or any other health or fitness-related benefits from its toning shoes, unless those claims are true and backed by scientific evidence. 

Last year, the FTC reached a similar settlement with Reebok International LTDk about claims for its toning shoes. Reebook agreed to make $25 million in customer refunds.

The federal settlement is part of a broader agreement that resolves an investigation conducted by 44 states and the District of Columbia.

Something else to consider
I first warned you that the claims for toning shoes appeared to be over-hyped back in November of 2010. (ConsumerMan: Do those funky shoes really promote fitness?) I explained that toning shoes are designed to be unstable, which could cause problems for people who already have trouble maintaining their balance.

At that time, Consumer Reports was concerned that seniors who wore toning shoes could increase their risk of falling, which could result in hip fractures or other serious injuries. That’s still something to consider before you buy a pair of these shoes.

More information:

Kim Kardashian Skechers commercial HD