Sketchers USA Inc. just recently settled over a recent advertising campaign that came under harsh criticism. The shoe company was claiming that their new toning shoe helped build muscle and shed fat. The $40 million class-action lawsuit was centered around a flashy commercial featuring Brooke Burke and Kim Kardashian. In the commercial Kardashian and Burke sport a variety of Sketchers brands, including Shape-Ups, Resistance Runners, Podded Sole Shoes, and Tone-Ups. The class action lawsuit was settled out of federal court in Louisville, KY and combined the cases of about 70 people seeking damages. Part of that final agreement was that Sketchers was no longer allowed to run the advertisement. The lawyers involved will split about $5 million while most consumers were entitled to a maximum repayment for their purchase.
If you believe wearing a specific shoe without committing to some aerobic or at least extra exercise is somehow going to transform your body from flab to fab, then I’ve got some snake oil to sell you. Nevertheless, shoe company Skechers (sic) made just that very claim with their line of “workout” sneakers called “Shape-Ups”. According to the marketing for the shoe, buying this particular brand will by virtue of wearing it work out and “tone” your legs, leading to fat loss and muscularity and all-around healthiness that you will not otherwise attain without the discomfort and strain of actually working out or being all-around healthy. The company conducted some tests and studies (by well-paid scientists-for-hire) that seemed to support this concept, and produced celebrity endorsements by the likes of quarterback Joe Montana and socialite Kim Kardashian, who claimed that the shoe was so beneficial that she abandoned her personal trainer altogether, relying entirely on the shoe as a sort of workout God-figure. Surprise surprise, the shoe did not live up to its expectations, and the Federal Trade Commission subsequently sued Skechers to stop spreading nonsense. Today, the company will pay about $50 million, some of which is in fines and most of which will go to reimbursing dissatisfied customers. And, of course, the company will have to change its marketing significantly when it reintroduces the shoe next year.
When you purchase the services of a personal trainer, you hold an expectation that they have an idea or two about what’s good for your health and that their supervision over unfamiliar workouts comes with a certain expectation of safety. A New York woman found out the hard way that this is not actually true. The woman was exercising with her personal trainer, presumably pumping mad iron, when the trainer advised her to try out a new exercise using strange equipment or on a machine of some sort (the press release from which I found this story is a bit lacking in specific detail). She was hesitant at first because she had never done the exercise before, but continued anyway after the reassurance of her trainer.