Reebok fined $25m for false trainer claims

Thursday, 29 September 2011
We all know fashion brands promise consumers silhouettes that will make us look slimmer and taller, vanity sizing telling us we are thin and denim brands promising us jeans that lift our butts. If only. But so too sportswear brands make promises that can't always be kept, and Reebok International, the US sportswear company owned by Adidas, agreed on Wednesday to pay $25m to settle charges and offer refunds for shoes that it claimed strengthened leg and buttock muscles.

The US Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against the company, alleging that claims its EasyTone and RunTone shoes had a strengthening effect were deceptive and that they did not provide health benefits beyond those of traditional trainers.

“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,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection.

The shoes sell for up to $100 a pair and Reebok claimed they provided 28 per cent more strength and tone in the buttock muscles, 11 per cent more strength and tone in the hamstring muscles, and 11 per cent more strength and tone in the calf muscles than regular walking shoes. By providing less stability than normal shoes, “toning” shoes are intended to make certain muscles work harder.

Reebok advertisements for the shoes claimed that they had pockets of moving air in the soles that created “micro-instability”. The advertisements promised that the firming effect of the shoes would make men speechless and women jealous.

The settlement comes as the FTC has been pursuing deceptive advertising more aggressively as part of its efforts to protect consumers.

Sales of toning shoes peaked at $1bn in the US last year, according to the FTC, and the settlement could deal a blow to other shoe companies that have benefited from the fad. Skechers, a rival footwear company, helped popularise toning shoes with its Shape-ups, and New Balance sells Rock & Tone shoes.

Nike resisted entering the market for toning shoes and mocked the trend last year with ads proclaiming: “This shoe works if you do.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Reebok is barred from making claims that toning products strengthen muscles without scientific evidence and is not allowed to misrepresent such studies, the FTC said.

Reebok now claims on its website that EasyTone sneakers are “perfect for walking and everyday activities”.

Image: Reebok EasyTone
Source: Financial Times©