In the weight loss industry, outrageous, “too-good-to-be-true” claims of products being able to melt the pounds off without dramatic dietary adjustments or extensive exercise are not new, and unfortunately, these claims are often proven to be false at the detriment of the consumer. Recent reports allege that Skechers line of toning shoes are among the latest products to come under fire for their misleading advertising claims and resulting injuries to consumers.
On May 16, 2012, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that Skechers USA, Inc. agreed to pay a $40 million settlement in response to allegations of its overreaching advertising claims and the associated injuries suffered by consumers. This settlement resulted from the Skechers class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
Although this Skechers class action lawsuit has been settled, others have been filed and are still pending across the U.S., including in the Western District of Kentucky in Louisville; moreover, other individual personal injury lawsuits against Skechers have also been filed nationwide – meaning there are likely to be more Skechers settlements issued in the coming months and years. It’s important to note that, according to legal professionals, while class action lawsuits are generally preferable for those who have suffered from more minor injuries, those who have suffered from severe Skechers injuries may benefit more from filing an individual personal injury lawsuit against Skechers USA, Inc.
Interestingly, in September 2011, Reebok came under similar scrutiny for its line of toning shoes (EasyTone sneakers) and agreed to pay a $25 million settlement for making unsubstantiated claims in advertising for this product. According to the FTC, the Skechers toning shoe settlement was significantly higher to reflect the company’s greater share of this market and, therefore, the greater potential injury to consumers.
Skechers Toning Shoes: Misleading Advertising, Injuries and Defective Design
While advertising for Skechers toning shoes claimed that they could improve cardiovascular health, promote weight loss, and improve leg and buttocks tone without having to go to the gym, consumers are now reporting that these shoes have caused them to suffer from:
- Broken bones, including broken hips, legs and/or ankles
- Stress fractures affecting the legs, knees, ankles and/or feet
- Head injuries, in the event of loss of balance and falls
- Tears to the Achilles tendons or other ligaments.
Some medical experts have alleged that Skechers toning shoes (and other brands of similar toning shoes) have an inherent design flaw that increases instability and alters gait, thereby increasing the chances of sustaining the above-mentioned injuries. Namely, the rocker-style bottoms of these shoes can increase the likelihood of spraining ankles, falling and stress fractures, as users are forced to engage muscles not typically engaged when walking.
Skechers Toning Shoes Settlement Terms and Refunds
In addition to the monetary payout, the May 2012 Skechers settlement has some other terms and stipulations, including that:
- Skechers no longer make advertising claims about its toning shoes unless they are backed up by scientific evidence.
- Consumers injured as a result of using Skechers toning shoes be compensated for the cost of the shoe, as well as for their past and future medical bills associated with any Skechers injury they may have sustained.
Some of the specific brands of Skechers toning shoes that are covered by this settlement include (but are not limited to) the following (that were purchased before August 1, 2008):
- Skechers Shape-Ups Originals and Evolution
- Skechers Shape-Ups Extended Fitness and Extended Wear
- Skechers Shape-Ups Toners and Trainers
- Skechers Shape-Ups Work Slip Resistant
- Skechers Tone-ups (both the podded outsoles and nonpodded sandals)
- Skechers Resistance Runners
Consumers can find out if their Skecher toning shoes are covered and apply for a refund at the FTC’s Skechers refund website: www.ftc.gov