Skechers lawsuit settlement: $40 million payment on false advertising claims

Sketchers will pay $40 million in the settlement over its Shape-ups shoes. (Photo: Flickr/gorgeoux)

WASHINGTON (AP/ABC7) - The government wants you to know that simply sporting a pair of Skechers' fitness shoes is not going to get you Kim Kardashian's curves or Brooke Burke's toned tush.

Skechers USA Inc. will pay $40 million to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission that the footwear company made unfounded claims that its Shape-ups shoes would help people lose weight and strengthen their butt, leg and stomach muscles. Kardashian, Burke and other celebrities endorsed the shoes in Skechers ads.

The settlement, announced Wednesday, also involves the company's Resistance Runner, Toners, and Tone-ups shoes. Skechers made deceptive claims about those shoes, too, says the agency.

"When comparing it's toning footwear to standard fitness shoes, Skechers puts its foot in its mouth by making unproven claims that its toning footwear strengthens muscles, increases weight loss, reduces body fat and improve circulation and aerobic conditioning," David Vladeck of the FTC said.

Consumers who bought the shoes will be eligible for refunds. In July, ABC 7 reported on a group of people who suffered severe foot and ankle injuries while using this type of footwear.

On Wednesday, in the wake of the settlement, several D.C.-area residents who bought into the claims are now lamenting their purchase.

"I just think everyone is looking for the miracle cure and don't want to put any effort into working out," Nicole Cutman, who bought a pair of toning shoes, said. "Of course they don't work, because nothing is magic."

The commission settled similar charges with Reebok last year over its EasyTone walking shoes and RunTone running shoes. That $25 million agreement also provided customer refunds.

Skechers billed its Shape-ups as a fitness tool designed to promote weight loss and tone muscles with the shoe's curved "rocker" or rolling bottom - saying it provides natural instability and causes the consumer to "use more energy with every step." Shape-ups cost about $100.

"The Company fully stands behind its toning shoe products and technology and is permitted under the settlement to continue to advertise," Skechers President Michael Greenberg said in a statement. "We remain committed to the continued development of our toning shoe products, and will continue to deliver quality products that our customers love.”

You can read Skechers' full response to the settlement here.

Ads for the Resistance Runner shoes claimed people who wear them could increase "muscle activation" by up to 85 percent for posture-related muscles and 71 percent for one of the muscles in the buttocks, said the FTC.

The commission says Skechers falsely represented that clinical studies backed up the company's claims about its toning shoes. The settlement bars Skechers from misrepresenting any tests, studies or research on its shoes in the future.

In Wednesday's court filing, Skechers says it disputes the charges and is pursuing additional studies. In a press release, the company still denies the allegations and believe its advertising was correct.

“Our Company’s goal has always been and will continue to be designing and selling quality, affordable shoes for our loyal customers," Skechers CFO David Weinberg said in a statement. "In short, we settled to avoid the cost and distraction of protracted legal battles so we could get back to doing what we do best.”

The settlement is part of a broader agreement also being announced Wednesday - a settlement resolving a multi-state investigation led by the attorneys general from Tennessee and Ohio and involving more than 40 states.

The company, based in Manhattan Beach, Calif., will provide $40 million for customer refunds in the federal case and $5 million to the states.

ABC7's Suzanne Kennedy contributed to this report.