FTC slams Reebok for overstating footwear health benefits


If you are going to claim that your athletic footwear and flip flops will strengthen and tone certain muscles, you’d better be able to back it up with some solid science. Reebok could not, and it is paying a $25M settlement en route to learning this particular lesson.

“The FTC wants national advertisers to understand that they must exercise some responsibility and ensure that their claims for fitness gear are supported by sound science,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Reebok was charging $80-$100 a pair for EasyTone walking shoes and RunTone running shoes; and $60 a pair for EasyTone flip flops.

Reebok’s EasyTone walking shoes and RunTone running shoes have retailed for $80 to $100 a pair, while EasyTone flip flops have retailed for about $60 a pair.

The company made its claims on television, in print and on the internet – and some of its claims were very specific. The FCC said it “…alleges that Reebok falsely claimed that walking in EasyTone footwear had been proven to lead to 28 percent more strength and tone in the buttock muscles, 11 percent more strength and tone in the hamstring muscles, and 11 percent more strength and tone in the calf muscles than regular walking shoes.”

Reebok will pay the settlement and refrain from making unsupported advertising claims in the future. The $25M will be made available for restitution to customers through an as-yet-undetermined process.

A law firm with a consumer products practice warned all companies to be careful with their messaging. “This is a brave new frontier for consumer products, especially those in the higher-end, that claim to make one healthy, beautiful or live longer,” says White & Case Commercial Litigation Partner Jaime Bianchi. “The FTC has been very active in investigating products that claim they provide health benefits to consumers.”

Bianchi continued, “They are making a big push to make sure that advertising, especially when it deals with claims of a product’s health-related benefits, is backed by some scientific evidence to support it. The current FTC perceives that the prior Commission was not very protective of consumers, so they have a whole different mantra in place, which is why we are seeing more active policing by the FTC. If a company is going to claim that a product has secondary effects that are related to the use of the product other than the product itself, like health related, they need to make sure they have adequate support for the claims.”