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.
This is certainly a controversial area. Skechers did target an advertising campaign in 2011 aimed at girls which did anger some parent groups and advertising industry groups. The shoes and their promotion were targeted at age 7 and up. The campaign used slim cartoon characters as a girl band and run on the Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon:
The commercial in question features a band of thin girls singing about their shoes, and being followed around by surly looking boys dressed like ice cream, burgers, and other “junk” foods. Women have plenty of time to be targeted for their weight throughout their lives. By not only marketing a shoe line to young girls, but also not even having an equivalent for boys Skechers is sending a clear message to girls and women: you’re never too young to start hating your body.
This person’s concerns about Shape-ups for Girls are unfounded and way off base. The whole message behind Shape-ups is to get moving, get exercise, and get fit. This is the same messaging being used by the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative, which is aimed specifically at children. Please look this site over and ask yourself whether the person who started the petition might voice the exact same concerns about the Let’s Move messaging for children.
Skechers are still producing the shoe.
Putting aside the above concerns about the marketing, what about the use of toning shoes in children?
I think that the predominant consensus among podiatry and health professional groups as well as industry commentators would be that if children wear shoes, then those shoes should not interfere with the normal motion and development of the foot. By that apparent consensus, then a toning shoe would appear to interfere with normal foot function, especially the windlass mechanism of the foot and run the risk of interfering with the normal development of the foot as a consequence. However, given that children do not wear shoes 24/7, it is not clear just how much of a problem that this would be. It is also not clear how much of an interference over what sort of time period is needed to really be a long term problem. There are lots of opinions, rhetoric and propaganda on this with very little science.
Children wearing toning shoes for short periods of time are possibly going to have some benefits in developing improved balance and co-ordination as they do use the muscles differently and the gait is altered. How can that be a problem? It must be helpful. That has to be balanced against the potential of interfering with normal development. It will have to be one of trade-offs.
Will they lead to a weakening of muscles? Unlikely, as most kids do spend a reasonable amount of time running around barefoot. Toning shoes do work some muscles harder, so that is not going to lead to a weakening either.
The alteration in gait that occurs in these shoes may be helpful in some children with some type’s neurological deficits. This is going to have to be a decision made in consultation with the clinician involved in treating the child and if this type of shoe would have a negative or positive effect on the particular gait of the individual.
– Normal development of the foot should not be interfered with by the footwear
– The toning shoes are probably not going to do any harm provided they are used in moderation
– The shoes may even be helpful if worn for short periods
– They may be useful in certain gait patterns in certain neurological problems in children
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)
A recent news report talks about litigation against Skechers from a male who claims that his Achilles tendon was ruptured from the use of their Shape Up toning shoes. The case has not been heard yet and there is no statement from Skechers.
Is the claim valid?
Toning shoes do alter the way you walk. They do alter the loads on different tissues, and yes they do make the calf muscles work harder, so they do place a greater load on the Achilles tendon. Much more is needed to rupture it though (more on Achilles ruptures), so to claim it is the cause is, in my opinion, a bit of a stretch. There must be a number of other risk factors present first and an Achilles tendon rupture is usually accompanied with simultaneous ankle dorsiflexion and knee extension. That will possibly be increased somewhat in toning shoes that have a rocker bottom. Generally a number of risk factors need to be in place for the rupture to happen, so the toning shoes can only be one of them.
As by way of analogy, there was the controversy when the Cox-2 inhibitor, Vioxx which was used as an anti-inflammatory agent was withdrawn from the market due to the increased risk for cardiovascular events. A number of people who had heart attacks or strokes while on this drug sued. Most of the cases failed, as they already had the risk factors for the heart attack or stroke (see this Wikipedia discussion) and Vioxx was not found to be the causative factor.
It will be interesting to see which way this Skechers case goes, or if it is just settled (which would be shame, as I would like to know which way the courts would rule!). Would they rule in favor of the litigant that the shoes caused the Achilles rupture or will they rule like in the Vioxx cases that other risk factors were already present?
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.
Following on from the recent settlement between Reebok and the FTC over the claims for their toning shoes, a class action suit has been filed against Skechers by the product liability firm Estey Bomberger.
The product liability law firm of ESTEY BOMBERGER has filed a lawsuit against Skechers USA, Inc. on behalf of 37 plaintiffs across the country that suffered serious injuries as a result of wearing the Skechers Shape-ups and Tone-ups shoes. The lawsuit states that the toning shoes, most easily identified by their pronounced “rocker bottom” sole, have been on the market for several years, and advertised to provide countless health benefits including improved cardiac function and orthopedic benefits.