SAN DIEGO (CN) - A federal class action claims that Skechers pushes it "Shape-ups" shoes with false claims about their health benefits, and that the shoes "have actually injured some consumers." The class claims that Skechers claims through deceptive ads that people who wear the shoes can "get in shape without setting foot in a gym," and that "these purported benefits had been shown in 'four clinical studies.'"
Named plaintiff Venus Morga claims that Skechers' false ads, in print, TV, and on the Internet, claimed "that wearing Shape-ups would result in noticeable physiological benefits to consumers, including weight loss, firmer muscles, reduced cellulite, improved circulation, and improved posture. Skechers claimed that as a result of these benefits, users could 'get in shape without setting foot in a gym.' Skechers claimed these purported benefits had been shown in 'four clinical studies.'"
These misleading ads helped Skechers "reap millions of dollars of profit," the complaint states. "Shape-ups provide no health benefit to users beyond what any other ordinary sneaker provides. Worse, Shape-ups have actually injured some consumers."
Skechers claims its shoes are made with a "unique kinetic wedge" that is rounded instead of flat, to change the user's posture and balance, according to the complaint. An instructional DVD included with the shoes tells the consumer, "Congratulations! With Shape-ups you can finally get in shape, without going to the gym."
Skechers claims the shoes will roll the user forward in walking, as weight is shifted to the center of the shoe, resulting in "'stronger leg, buttock, back and abdominal muscles as you stabilize your steps.'"
Since the Shape-ups are designed to constantly change the user's balance, "they are unsuitable for users with flat feet, or those who have pre-existing difficulties maintaining their balance," the class claims. It adds that people who are prone to hamstring or ankle injuries may provoke an injury by using the shoes.
The class cites a Wall Street Journal article noting that a May 2009 study conducted by Skechers and posted on its website "didn't have a control group and wasn't rigorously designed." The study purported to show "higher muscle activities at all speeds for subjects wearing Shape-ups."
The Skechers website also claims that a June 2009 study reported that volunteers lost an average of 3.25 pounds; that an August 2009 study reported that "muscles in the legs are used more with Shape-ups than with standard sneakers;" and that a November 2009 study showed that volunteers lost an average of 2.78 pounds.
The class claims that none of the studies, allegedly commissioned by Skechers, were "subjected to traditional scientific scrutiny, in that none of them was conducted by impartial, double-blinded third parties, and none were subjected to peer review or other methods traditionally used by the scientific community to ensure accurate results."
The class also cites a recent study by the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse that showed that there were "no statistically significant benefits to wearing Shape-ups."
Morga says she "did not experience any of the benefits described in defendant's misleading ad campaign."
She seeks class certification, damages for unjust enrichment and business and consumer law violations, and an order requiring Skechers to stop misrepresenting the benefits of its Shape-ups.
Her lead attorney is Jeff Westerman with Milberg LLP of Los Angeles.