Were Reebok’s EasyTones An Easy Scam?
By Alison Parker
Reviewed by Jennifer Williams
There’s a fit girl on TV and she’s telling you that you can get fit too–but not by using workout DVDs or going on some crazy diet. All you have to do is wear a pair of Reebok shoes. This girl starts talking science and numbers to prove how legit these shoes are, and she is really convincing. So you go out and buy a pair of Reebok EasyTone sneakers and hit the pavement. Depending on the results from your experience, you may be relieved to know that you can now get a refund from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Reebok and the FTC entered into a $25 million settlement agreement over the EasyTone shoes back in September.
Reebok began advertising its EasyTone technology in 2009. Reebok claimed that just by walking in these shoes you would develop 28% more strength and toning in the glutes and 11% more in the hamstring and calf muscles than you would get walking in regular shoes. The FTC said advertisements for the shoes claimed that a special technology in the sole of the shoe featured pockets of moving air that created “micro instability” that toned and strengthened muscles as a person walked or ran. But these ads made the FTC skeptical, so it investigated and found that the company did not have substantial evidence to back up its claims. Although, Reebok adamantly contends that just because it settled with the FTC, that does not mean that it admits to any wrongdoing. In fact, Reebok stands by its EasyTone technology; it decided to settle as a way to avoid future litigation.
While Reebok is not required to stop selling the shoes, the settlement bars the company from making certain representations regarding the footwear. According to the FTC, under the settlement, Reebok is barred from: (1) making claims that toning shoes and other toning apparel are effective in strengthening muscles, or that using the footwear will result in a specific percentage or amount of muscle toning or strengthening, unless the claims are true and backed by scientific evidence; (2) making any health or fitness-related efficacy claims for toning shoes and other toning apparel unless the claims are true and backed by scientific evidence; and (3) misrepresenting any tests, studies, or research results regarding toning shoes and other toning apparel.
Other companies have been the target of the FTC’s rigorous policing practices because they used unsubstantiated scientific evidence to back their claims. The commission recently cracked down on Nestle for claiming that probiotics in one of its children’s drinks boosted children’s immune systems, prevented certain illnesses and caused the children to miss less school days. Although Nestle had to pull the ads, the FTC did not fine the company any money, thus opening the door for class action lawsuits.
Like Nestle’s settlement, Reebok’s settlement doesn’t necessarily mean that its products are incapable of doing what Reebok claims they do; rather, it simply means that Reebok doesn’t have adequate evidence to substantiate these claims. I haven’t bought a pair of EasyTones and neither has anyone else I know, so I turned to user reviews on Amazon.com to see what the consensus was among EasyTone owners. Not surprisingly, the reviews varied–some loved the shoes and even bought them in multiple colors, others were disappointed with the results and will likely be pleased with the settlement news. The fact that some who bought the shoes claimed to notice a difference and were pleased with the outcome shows that Reebok’s claims couldn’t possibly be completely fabricated. But the FTC is doing its job and should be commended. For now, it looks like its back to the labs for Reebok.
FTC Press Release: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2011/09/reebok.shtm
Reebok’s Response: http://corporate.reebok.com/en/about_reebok/FAQ%20FTC.asp
Amazon EasyTone User Reviews: http://www.amazon.com/Reebok-Womens-EasyTone-Outside-Training/product-reviews/B001GMAQ6O/ref=cm_cr_dp_all_helpful?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending