Reebok International Ltd., a unit of Adidas AG, has agreed to pay $25 million to settle a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit that charges that the company’s “toning” shoes do not reshape customers’ bodies as advertised.
Reebok ads claimed that wearing EasyTone shoes leads to 28 percent more strength and tone in the buttock muscles and 11 percent more strength and tone in hamstring and calf muscles than regular walking shoes, The Associated Press reports. The FTC alleged this was false.
"The allegations suggested that the testing we conducted did not substantiate certain claims used in the advertising of our EasyTone line of products," Reebok said in a statement Wednesday, CNN reports. "In order to avoid a protracted legal battle, Reebok has chosen to settle with the FTC."
The company added: "Settling does not mean we agree with the FTC's allegations. We do not. We have received overwhelmingly enthusiastic feedback from thousands of EasyTone customers."
“We think this is a real victory for consumers," Dana Barragate, an FTC attorney involved in the case, told the AP. "We hope it sends a message to businesses that if they are going to make claims they must be justified."
According to the AP:
It's the latest controversy surrounding so-called toning shoes, which are designed with a rounded or otherwise unstable sole. Shoemakers say the shoes force wearers to use more muscle to maintain balance and consumers clamored for them, turning toning shoes into a $1.1 billion market in just a few years. Companies such as Reebok, New Balance and Skechers have faced lawsuits over their advertising claims. But the FTC settlement, announced Wednesday, is the first time the government has stepped in.
Jaime Bianchi, an expert in consumer class-action lawsuits with the law firm White & Case, told Reuters that the FTC may sue other toning-shoe manufacturers if their advertising makes similar unsubstantiated claims. "They normally go after the biggest player and work down," said Bianchi.
The $25 million settlement fee will pay for refunds for consumers who are unsatisfied with their Reebok toning shoes, Reuters reports.