Some things are too good to be true. Strengthening and toning without breaking a sweat definitely sounds good. When companies like Skechers and Reebock launched a new type of shoe that could "tone" your legs while you walked around during the day, people who dreamed of tight buns and thighs jumped all over this fitness opportunity. The "toning shoes" became wildly popular despite the higher price point. People of all ages were trying them out. Why not? What could it hurt? Well, then reality started to dim those fanciful dreams about buns of steel.
In 2010, our own expert, Dorian Martin, reported to us that a new study conducted by the University of Wisconsin questioned the claims about toning shoes. This research was sponsored by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), a consumer advocacy group that conducts research to verify claims about exercise products. The researchers concluded from comparing toning shoes to regular shoes that "Across the board, none of the toning shoes showed statistically significant increases in either exercise response or muscle activation during any of the treadmill trials. There is simply no evidence that these shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone." After analyzing this report, Dorian then added that "This research has made me rethink my next shopping trip. Instead of purchasing this type of exercise shoe, I'll consider a good cross-trainer that lets me do whatever type of exercise I want and will cost less than these shoes."
Well now, the other shoe has finally dropped. The Federal Trade Commission announced late last month that Reebock has been ordered to pay $25 million dollars in fines as consumer refunds because the claims about its toning shoes were false. According to David Vladeck, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, "The FTC wants national advertisers to understand that they must exercise some responsibility and ensure that their claims for fitness gear are supported by sound science". The FTC stated that Reebock had been making false claims about the "EasyTone" footwear since 2009. The company falsely claimed that this toning shoe strengthened 28% better than regular shoes. These claims preyed on the public's desire to achieve fitness without breaking a sweat.
But the real predators, the hungry lawyers, are lining up for the kill. Class action lawsuits and personal injury lawsuits are being filed and solicited. One lawsuit filed earlier this year opines that the toning shoes caused hip fractures in a woman who wore them all day. Toning shoes are known to cause injuries according to the Consumer Reports statistics, but the severity of injuries attributed to this product is yet to be determined. Those at greatest risk of injury are the elderly. Thus, the real victims might be the elderly who were given the shoes by some well-meaning loved one who just wanted "mom" to get stronger. Elder abuse and protection laws might bring this toning shoe debacle to entirely different level. In the end, the lawyers will clean up the mess and go home with a lion's share of the consumer compensation.