(CN) – Skechers USA will give $40 million back to customers who bought its “toning shoes” based on unfounded claims that the shoes would help customers tone-up their buttocks, legs and abdominal muscles, the Federal Trade Commission said.
Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Brooke Burke hawked Skechers’ Shape-ups shoes in ads that aired during the Super Bowl, and Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana allowed his name to be used in print and web ads for the shoes.
In addition to Shape-ups, consumers who bought Skechers’ Resistance Runners, Toners and Tone-ups shoes will be eligible for refunds.
The FTC said ads for all of Skechers’ toning shoes included unsupported claims that just walking in the shoes would increase weight loss, muscle toning and strengthening compared with wearing regular exercise shoes.
“Skechers’ unfounded claims went beyond stronger and more toned muscles. The company even made claims about weight loss and cardiovascular health,” said FTC consumer protection bureau director David Vladeck said in a statement. “The FTC’s message, for Skechers and other national advertisers, is to shape up your substantiation or tone down your claims.”
Under the terms of a 27-page stipulated final judgment, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Skechers agreed not to make any fitness claims about the shoes unless they are backed-up “competent and reliable scientific evidence” consisting of at least one human clinical trial of at least six-weeks duration.
The settlement resolves an investigation led by the Tennessee and Ohio attorneys general, and including attorneys general from 42 other states and the District of Columbia, the FTC said in a statement.
In its original complaint the FTC said that Skechers based many of its performance enhancing claims on a study it paid for, conducted by a chiropractor married to its senior vice-president of marketing.
That study was rife with errors and unreliable claims that Shape-ups wearers lost more weight, developed stronger backs and lowered their body fat compared to wearers of regular shoes, according to the commission.
The FTC will monitor Skechers advertising and the Manhattan Beach, Calif. based company will have to notify the commission of any changes to its corporate structure that would impact compliance with the order. According to the commission sales of toning shoes skyrocketed in the United States from a mere $17 million in 2008 to a peak of nearly $1 billion in 2010.