The Federal Trade Commission have announced in a press release that they are taking legal action again the footwear manufacture, Gravity Defyer.
The Gravity Defyer brand was launched in 2008 and their shoes feature a spring under the heel. At that time the Gravity Defyer shoes featured their sperm logo which certainly drew a lot of commentary. More recently they have been making health claims for their shoes that are not supported by the evidence.
These claims include:
“will relieve pain, including knee, back and foot pain;”
“will relieve pain in people suffering from multiple conditions such as plantar fasciitis, arthritis, joint pain, and heel spurs; and”
“is clinically proven to relieve pain, including 85 percent less knee pain, 91 percent less back pain, 92 percent less ankle pain, and 75 percent less foot pain.“
The FTC allege that there is a lack of evidence to support those claims and further allege that the company has failed to uphold previous agreements to not make unsubstantiated claims for their products.
Gravity Defyer have been reported as responding that the suit and its claims violates their First Amendment rights.
According to Big Class Action, Skechers have proposed to settle the class action for $40 million.
A $40 million settlement has been proposed in a consumer fraud class action lawsuit pending against toning shoe manufacturer Skechers U.S.A.
Entitled Grabowski v. Skechers U.S.A., Inc., No. 3:12-cv-00204 (W.D. Ky.), the lawsuit concerns claims that Skechers violated certain state laws and consumer protection statutes in connection with the marketing and sale of its toning shoes. Skechers denies those allegations.
I have just been looking at Google trends to see what interest there is in toning shoes. There has been a big decline in the number of people searching for ‘toning shoes’ at Google since a peak in December2011:
According to Google Adwords tools, there are 12 000 searches each month for ‘toning shoes’.
According to a press release from Wright & Schulte, LLC, they have filed a suit against Skechers:
alleging that his regular use of Skechers Shape-Ups resulted in five bulging discs in his lower back and his severe back injuries caused him to lose strength in his legs. Filed on December 15, 2012, this case (Case No. 3:12-cv-00838-TBR) names the defendants to be Skechers, U.S.A., Inc., Skechers, U.S.A., Inc., II and Skechers Fitness Group
According to court documents, the plaintiff purchased three pairs of Skechers Shape-Ups in 2009 and 2010 and after regularly wearing these Skechers toning shoes for two years, the plaintiff began experiencing severe lower back pain and decreasing strength in his legs allegedly due to Skechers toning shoes. Upon visiting a physician and undergoing an MRI, the plaintiff was informed that he had five bulging discs in his lower back and that his injuries would require surgery.
Court documents state that the fundamentally precarious rocker-bottom design of Skechers toning shoes caused the plaintiff’s injuries. They also allege that the manufacturers of these shoes did not perform any safety testing even when consumers had suffered from Skechers injuries and that the Skechers corporations never warned the public about the possibility of injuries associated with these toning shoes.
No comment was available from Skechers as they do not comment on litigation.
Does the case have merit? I guess it all depends what risk factors for “bulging disks” were present before they started wearing the Skechers Shape-Ups and how much they contributed to the problem (see the post on achilles tendon ruptures and toning shoes)
Ever since MBT started the footwear category for the toning shoes, they have been plagued with the illegal reproduction of their shoes. Like any company they are constantly having to fight this on many fronts. One of these fronts is to try and get the websites that sell the illegal copies removed from the search engines. In order to maintain transparency, Google reports the number and some information on the copyright removal request that it gets and actions. Here is the details on the requests received from Masai Marketing and Trading AG for the MBT shoes. This give an indication of the extent of the problem.
Along with the settlements reached with Skechers and Reebok, Target have settled their suit involving their TrimStep range of toning shoes after failing to get a judge to throw out the case. According to Minneapolis/St. Business Journal, the terms of the settlement are confidential. Target have discontinued the shoe.
MBT shoes seem to be in trouble. The parent company, Masai Marketing & Trading AG, in Switzerland has filed for bankruptcy and the United Kingdom distributor has been placed in administration.
The Federal Trade Commission have announced that Skechers have agreed to pay $40 million to settle the charges it misled consumers with claims that its toning sneakers could do everything from help users lose weight to make their “bottom half their better half” without ever going to a gym. The settle will be used to provide refunds to the buyers of shape-ups. This follows the previous settlement with Reebok for $25 million
As part of the settlement, Skechers are barred from making unsubstantiated claims about the health and fitness benefits of Shape-ups and related footwear. The commission alleged Skechers also made deceptive claims about its Resistance Runner, Toners, and Tone-ups shoes.
They also claim a chiropractor named Steven Gautreau recommended the product based on a clinical study he claimed was “independent” and tested the shoes’ benefits compared to regular fitness shoes, the FTC said. The study did not produce the results claimed in the ad, the FTC said. Skechers also failed to disclose that Gautreau is married to a Skechers marketing executive and Skechers paid him to do the study, the FTC said.
In a statement Skecker’s stated:
“While we vigorously deny the allegations made in these legal proceedings and looked forward to vindicating these claims in court, Skechers could not ignore the exorbitant cost and endless distraction of several years spent defending multiple lawsuits in multiple courts across the country,”
Shoes that employ toning technology have been sold in the United States for more than 15 years and have been the subject of numerous research projects with at least 19 reports published in peer-reviewed clinical and sports medicine journals. Researchers from around the world have analyzed various models of toning shoes and found demonstrable fitness benefits from walking and standing in such shoes, as compared to flat-bottomed athletic footwear.
Link to the FTC press release.
Link to the Skechers Press Release
Not exactly a toning shoes issue, but Vibram Five Fingers have had a class action suit filed against them that has all the hallmarks of the Reebok settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and the class action cases filed against Skechers. Vibram Five Fingers are a minimalist running shoe offering no support or cushioning. They are very popular with the barefoot and minimalist runners. The suit alleges that the health gains promised by wearing the shoes did not eventuate. Vibram have issued a statement denying the claims and stating they will vigorously defend them
Link to the suit.
Runners World’s legal analysis of the suit.
There has been a lot of online discussion and debate about the merits of the case (eg see: Vibram Five Fingers facing class action over health claims).
There is a good analysis of the more recent unsuccessful attempt attempt by Vibram to get the case dismissed here.
Target are now the subject of a class action lawsuit following on from the recent Reebok settlement and the Skechers class action. The suit has been filed in the Minnesota state court. Like the previous suits this one also alleges that the customers who purchased the shoes failed to get the results that the advertising promised they would. Target began marketing their TrimStep line of footwear in 2009.
Link to court documents