Toning shoes under siege: Companies pay up


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Were you one of the many people who bought Reebok’s EasyTone and RunTone shoes and EasyTone apparel in hopes of toning up your bod only to get let down? According to the Federal Trade Commission, your check is in the mail. On Aug. 8, approximately 315,000 checks were mailed to eligible consumers who submitted a valid claim for a refund.

The charges against Reebok
Ads for the toning shoes claimed that sole technology featuring pockets of moving air creates “micro instability” that tones and strengthens muscles as you walk or run. The FTC thought otherwise.

As part of its efforts to stem overhyped health claims, the FTC last year alleged that Reebok “deceptively advertised its toning shoes by claiming that consumers wearing the shoes would strengthen and tone leg and buttock muscles more than by wearing regular shoes.” The company paid $25 million for refunds to settle FTC charges of deceptive advertising.

The amount each consumer gets back is based on the amount the consumer claimed to have spent on the products. Consumers will receive approximately 87% of the amount on their claim forms that was submitted and approved. The deadline for filing a refund request has expired.

Remember: The checks must be cashed on or before Nov. 6, 2012.  If you have a question, the FTC suggests you call (888) 398-5389.

Reebok’s responded to the charges on their corporate website: “Settling does not mean we agreed with the FTC’s allegations; we do not .. We fully stand behind our EasyTone technology – the first shoe in the toning category inspired by balance-ball training.”

Learn more about the suit here.

Sketchers is experiencing the same scrutiny. In May, the company agreed to pay $40 million to settle FTC charges that it deceived consumers with its ads for Shape-Ups. You can still file a claim here.

Do they work or not?
“Toning shoes appear to promise a quick-and-easy fitness solution, which we realize people are always looking for,” American Council on Exercise chief science officer Cedric Bryant said in a release. “Unfortunately, these shoes do not deliver the fitness or muscle-toning benefits they claim.”

ACE in 2010 released findings of an independent study on the effectiveness of popular toning shoes. According to a release, ACE enlisted a team of researchers from the Exercise and Health Program at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, and found no evidence to suggest that the shoes help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone.

“Our findings demonstrate that toning shoes are not the magic solution consumers were hoping they would be and simply do not offer any benefits that people cannot reap through walking, running or exercising in traditional athletic shoes,” ACE stated in a press release.

Not everyone is convinced.

Leonard Armato, president of Skechers’ fitness group told WebMD that he doubts the validity of the ACE report:
“This study is not published in a peer-reviewed journal and only involved 12 young, fit women who walked for five minutes on a treadmill,” he told WebMD. “ACE represents fitness trainers who are at odds with the toning industry and don’t want toning to take root.
Armato continued: “They have the most to lose if people start walking around in these shoes as opposed to going to a gym and hiring a personal trainer.”

Tone up without the shoes
You want results? Do the work. It’s that simple. To tone up your legs, you need to do a lot of squats, jumps, lunges and lifts. Kickboxing is a great way to burn calories and tone up. Check out Cosmopolitan’s slideshow of leg-toning moves. (Yes, squats are included; you can’t get around them!)

Going for a walk? ACE recommends carrying weights to ramp up your walk or use a weighted vest (of up to 10% of your total bodyweight). You’ll burn more calories and tone muscle.

Be a smart consumer
Like any other purchase, be smart when choosing workout apparel and equipment. The FTC offers the following tips for buying fitness gear:

Do the work. Some advertisers say — without evidence — that their shoes, clothing, equipment or other exercise add-ons offer a quick, easy way to shape up and lose weight. The truth is, there’s no such thing as a no-work, no-sweat way to a fit, healthy body. What really gets the job done is the exercise, not how you’re geared up while working out.

Avoid promises of spot reduction. Losing weight in one problem area requires regular exercise that works the whole body. Promises to effortlessly burn a spare tire or melt fat from hips and thighs — without a regular workout routine — should cause you to raise an eyebrow.

Be skeptical of before-and-after photos from “satisfied” customers. Their experiences may not reflect the results users get. As for those celebrity endorsements, they’re no proof that the product will work as claimed either. And what about the chiseled models in the ads? Is that six-pack the result of the product they’re peddling, or months in the gym and years of healthy habits?

Give it a test drive. The only gear worth getting is something that will help you make a consistent commitment to conditioning. Before buying, give different kinds of equipment a test drive at a local gym, recreation center or retailer.

Do the math. Some companies advertise “three easy payments of …” or “try it free for a month.” But if they’re not upfront about the price, what else are they hiding? The advertised price may not include sales tax, shipping and delivery charges. Ask about refund policies, factoring in restocking fees or how much it might cost to send something back.

Consider the source. That “gotta have it” fitness product may be available at a better price from a local retailer. Or perhaps you can pocket a few bucks by comparing prices online. If a company claims it’s just their product — and not your effort — that provides the benefit, keep walking. It’s a sign their puffed-up ad claims could use some toning down.