The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) favors truth in advertising and requires advertisements in the United States to be honest and not deceptive; additionally, any claims made must be substantiated by actual evidence. Companies that deceive the public with their advertising practices will incur civil liability and additional penalties both imposed by the government and in civil court during class action lawsuits. Such was the case with a recent campaign involving Skechers toning shoes.

skechers AND headphones - EL

skechers AND headphones - EL

skechers AND headphones - EL

The Practices

Skechers is a company that markets and sells numerous lines of footwear for different types of customers and applications. The company’s many offerings include Shape Ups, Padded Sole Shoes, Tone Ups, and Resistance Runners. To advertise these lines of footwear, the company ran a series of advertisements claiming that the shoes would allow people to lose weight without entering a gym and portraying the shoes as being capable of strengthening certain muscles and burning calories.

Many, but not all, of these advertisements highlighted the Shape Ups line. In particular, the shoes were the subject of a particular advertisement containing an endorsement from a chiropractor who purported to have conducted an independent study that substantiated claims that the Shape Ups provided additional benefits over competing products.

Similarly, an advertisement for the Resistance Runner shoes claimed that the shoes enhanced “muscle activation” of certain muscles by different percentage points relative to the competition.

The Settlement

The FTC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, alleging that the aforementioned campaigns were deceptive and involved unfounded claims. These unfounded claims consisted of the company’s various claims that the shoes would enhance muscle tone and weight loss.

Additionally, the FTC claimed that the advertisement with the chiropractor was deceptive on the grounds that the alleged study did not generate the claimed results and that the chiropractor in question was married to a marketing executive working for Skechers.

Skechers settled the FTC’s complaint for a total of $40 million. Under the terms of the settlement, buyers of the Shape Ups, Padded Sole Shoes, Tone Ups, and Resistance runners are entitled to a refund of $34, $23, $17 and $36, respectively. Compensation was distributed to 509,175 buyers of these shoes during a court-approved class-action lawsuit. Eligible customers had until April 18, 2013 to file a claim to receive this refund.

Fitness Products and Marketing

Deceptive claims of fitness-inducing footwear aside, it is true that shoe structure can have physiological effects outside of one’s feet. In particular, poor shoe design can be detrimental to the body, can affect posture, and can increase the strain on certain muscles. This can lead to pain and muscle injury. In the case of the Sketchers shoes, the advertising practices were at issue, rather than any direct harm caused by the product.

However, some customers may have detrimentally relied upon the deceptive claims in Skechers advertisements. Particularly susceptible victims could include those in dire need of exercise, like those with diabetes or other conditions, who merely purchased the shoes and eschewed vital aspects of a fitness regimen, and those who overexerted their muscles after erroneously believing that they had been making progress in exercising certain muscles.

Claiming for Injuries Sustained

Aside from the compensation paid out under the FTC rebate, around 400 injury claims against Skechers are in progress, with some settlements already being reached.  The injuries being claimed for range from torn ligaments, to spinal injuruies, hip fractures and paralysis.

Most of the claimaints found that after using the Shape-Up toning shoes they had difficulty in walking, and many did not get over their injuries for many weeks and in some cases, years. Most suffered pain after wearing the shoes and in extreme cases, suffered permanent disability.

NY personal injury attorneys, The Perecman Firm, point out that “Under product liability law, everyone involved in delivering a product to a consumer is responsible for ensuring that it is free of design and manufacturing defects. If you or your child has been injured by a defective product, you may be entitled to compensation.”

The compensation amounts for injuries sustained as a result of wearing the Shape-Up shoes will be more than that determined by the FTC ruling and will include losses relating to medical expenses, loss of income and other care costs.

Anyone who is reasonably misled by deceptive advertising practices and suffers an injury may have a claim against the manufacturer. Anyone who has been injured as a result of using toning shoes, should seek legal counsel immediately. 

As a former legal blog editor, author Georgina Clatworthy has written extensively on personal injury law and the compensation process. She recently visited the website of NY personal injury attorneys, The Perecman Firm, and found they can help enforce your legal rights if you have suffered an injury because of someone else’s negligence.