You’ve seen the commercials: very fit and sexy ladies who have shapely behinds anyone would kill for, and what do they attribute their beautiful bodies to? Toning shoes. Last year, toning footwear topped $1 billion in sales; this is a busting market indeed. However, the commercials are too good to be true. The fitness and fashion world was rocked last week when Reebok announced it would be issuing $25 million in refunds because its EasyTone shoes actually do not shape consumers’ derrières as promised.
We’ve discussed false advertising litigation before, and apparently, Reebok isn’t the only toning shoe that’s facing legal battles. Skechers is facing allegations that its Shape-Ups cause consumers to walk differently because it overextends the legs, and this overextension may lead to stress fractures.
The plaintiff’s attorney in this case against Skechers has said, “We do not know of any testing or safety studies that Skechers did to determine safety. If they’re going to invent a whole new way for a human being to walk, the very first thing they should do is studies to make sure that’s not going to harm their customers.”
Matt Powell, an analyst at SportsOneSource, said he did not think the additional bad publicity would have much impact. “While the market is now warm rather than red hot, customers who buy toning shoes like them because they are comfortable, not because they will make them more buff.”
Now, I’m not an analyst, but I’m very doubtful of Mr. Powell’s statements. If toning shoes are advertised to tone one’s body, very few people will buy the shoes because “they are comfortable.” Sandals, flip-flops, and flats are worn for comfort; shoes with “balance ball-inspired technology” that force your body to walk in a different way do not sound comfortable at all.
The shares for Adidas, the parent company of Reebok, has already fallen €1.35 ($1.83) to €47.86 ($64.89) on the Frankfurt exchange last week. This likely is the trickle that will cause the shares to fall more as investors are always wary about litigation.
Perhaps there could be a lesson learned from all of this: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If this economic downturn has shown us anything, it’s that things are hard and easy things always come with a catch. So, savvy shoppers: beware of these shoes, and stay safe.