New Balance Inc. recently agreed to pay approximately four million dollars to settle a proposed consumer class action stemming from its toning shoes marketing campaign. The settlement follows on the heels of recent, high-profile agreements between both Reebok and Skechers to settle similar charges brought by the FTC regarding their respective marketing campaigns for toning shoes. According to the settlement agreement, filed in the District of Massachusetts, New Balance will establish a $2.3 million settlement fund from which each class member will receive up to $100 for each pair of shoes purchased. New Balance has also agreed to pay $500,000 for notice and administration costs and up to $950,000 in attorneys' fees and costs.
Additionally, New Balance has agreed to not make any health or fitness claims regarding its toning shoes, unless the claims are substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Specifically, it agreed to not make claims indicating its toning shoes will lead to muscle toning or strengthening, unless the claims are supported "by at least one adequate, well-controlled human clinical study."
The proposed class action lawsuit, filed in January 2011, alleged that New Balance's claims that its toning shoes could lead to increased muscle activation and caloric burn were not based on scientifically sound evidence. The suit also alleges that New Balance did not disclose the fear in the scientific community that wearing toning shoes may lead to injury.
Tip: Any claim made regarding a product's purported health or fitness benefits must be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Ideally, such evidence will come from independent scientific studies. Producers and advertisers should exercise caution to ensure that advertisements do not overstate or misinterpret the results of scientific studies.