Skechers Fitness Claims Shot Down; Turns Out You Really Have to Exercise

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A customer leaves a Skechers store on May 16, 2012 in New York City. The Federal Trade Commission announced that Skechers has agreed to pay $40 million to settle charges of misleading consumers with claims that their toning sneakers would provide health and fitness benefits, including losing weight, without ever going to a gym.

In a blow to those who want to believe there’s a magic alternative to exercise, Skechers has agreed to pay $45 million to settle claims that the company exaggerated the fitness benefits of its rocker-bottom athletic shoes. It turns out they can’t do the exercise for you.

In ads featuring shapely women, including a spot that ran during the 2011 Super Bowl, Skechers advanced the idea that their Shape-ups, Tone-ups, and Resistance Runner lines of shoes were responsible for the finely toned legs and other attractive body parts being featured. Sadly, there was simply no evidence that that was true.

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On the bright side, if you happened to buy a pair of those shoes, you could be due at least a partial refund.

Skechers isn’t the first company to suggest that its product could do the work for you. They’re not even the first legitimate shoe company to do that. Just last year, Reebok agreed to pay $25 million to settle similar claims about its EasyTone line.

Skechers and Reebok joined a long line of far less reputable companies that have built their entire businesses around getting consumers to buy into the “we’ll do the work for you” concept.

A couple of months ago, marketers using sites that pretended to use material from legitimate news organizations were shut down for touting the benefits of a variety of pills and supplements made from acai berries. It seems that testimonials claiming acai berry products would lead to weight loss were fabricated.

For anyone who has struggled to lose weight, it can be tempting to suspend disbelief. It’s a lot easier to believe in a product that costs $50 or $100 that will do the work for you than it is to think about replacing unhealthy foods with healthy ones or actually exercising.

So, for every million of us who wish there really was a product that would do the work for us, there is another scheme or two for us to buy into. As ludicrous as some of the claims might be, we still want to believe them.

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How about the Slimming Insoles that were “the first and only massage insole in the world which reduces weight and regulates the digestion system”? Sound good? The product was debunked and the company was shut down.

Or what about the Vibration Slimming Belt that will “bring comfort, relaxation and magic body to any fat friend”? Their words, not mine. You can still buy this. Decide for yourself.

You don’t have to look too hard to find the next attempt to get you to buy into the idea of weight loss and exercise success without effort. It’s just that with both Skechers and Reebok, the claims came from name brands that many of us have come to trust.

In the end, the Skechers’ sales pitch of “Get in shape without ever setting foot in the gym” should have set off alarm bells even sooner than it did. They’ll now have to pay out what the FTC said is one of the largest settlements ever to consumers over marketing claims.

And the lesson learned is that bogus claims aren’t found only in late-night TV, spam emails, and those little text ads that show up next to your search engine query results.

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