The only thing slimming down here is Reebok’s profit margins.
The athletic company agreed to pay up to $25 million this week in refunds to customers who bought their EasyTone brand sneakers. This settles a recent complaint filed by the FTC, which posited that Reebok’s claims about the health benefits of the shoes were false.
The EasyTone advertising campaign touted the shoes’ ability to strengthen legs and glutes, leading to a 28% improvement in buttock muscles, 11% improvement in hamstrings, and 11% improvement in calves as compared to regular walking shoes. But when the FTC investigated, they deemed the evidence to back these claims as insufficient.
The terms of the settlement prohibit Reebok from making any further claims about the sneakers’ exercise benefits unless backed by hard scientific facts. “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,” David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in an FTC press release.
The ad campaign has been discontinued, and any in-store advertising featuring these claims is being pulled. Consumers can go to ftc.gov/reebok to apply for the refund.
Reebok was cooperative during the investigation, but continues to stand behind its product. In their own press release, the company stated, “Settling does not mean we agreed with the FTC’s allegations; we do not. We fully stand behind our EasyTone technology…we remain committed to the continued development of our EasyTone line of products.”
The FTC is also investigating Skechers, and there is a pending class-action lawsuit against New Balance, for making similar unsubstantiated claims about their own toning shoes.
Last year consumers spent more than $1 billion on this relatively new category of athletic footwear. Toning shoes have a design feature that is intended to make walking more difficult, requiring you to expend more energy and therefore burn more calories. In addition to lingering doubts about these exercise benefits, some consumers have complained of injuries and stress fractures that they attribute to their changed gait while walking in the shoes.
Looks like there are no shortcuts to toning your thighs after all. Time to climb back on the Stairmaster.