Shape Up or Poor Form?

Posted by John H. Heinrichs

Feb 27

Shape Up or Poor Form?

What do Wayne Gretzky, Karl Malone, Joe Montana, and Kim Kardashian all have in common?

ShapeUp Wayne Gretzky is making a comeback in Hockey?  Karl Malone is training again to reenter the NBA and take over the all time scoring record?  Joe Montana has been secretly practicing for later in life, post-retirement comeback? What could possibly be the motivating factor and common story line here?  Is this story one of poor form with the Skechers Corporate Brand advertising gone wild? 

What could possibly be the motivating factor and common story line here?

Apparently Skechers has come out with a brand of shoe that they say has unique abilities to shape and tone your body as you exercise.  All three of these ex-athletes have endorsed the product and have not said they were mounting comebacks as a result, but if you watched the television advertisements you would be thinking that is what they were using the shoes for.  Multiple issues would seem to arise here for the common consumer.  Are any of these claims true about these athletes and is there anything special about these shoes that would make them different from any other athletic training shoe that a person would buy?

Skechers made claims that the curved shape of the sole made the person exert more physical effort, toning muscles, improving posture, and would lead to weight loss.  On the other hand, most people I know who buy a pair of running shoes, and use them regularly by running, end up losing weight, getting faster, toning their muscles, which could then lead to other health benefits like reduced heart rate, reduced blood pressure, and more positive feelings about oneself.  So, this leaves us with the question of ...

Are the Skecher Shape ups really any different than any other shoe?

Apparently, there were more than just a few consumers who thought these ads were just a little misleading.  In fact, the Federal Trade Commission brought charges against the company for making misleading statements to consumers and just recently a judgment was awarded in the case against Skechers for $40 million.  Skechers of course denied any wrong doing in the case and stated that their claims were based on research.  Of course the research had a sample size of one person, leaving it kind of hard to generalize the results to a larger population.

What’s additionally disappointing in a case like this one is that I can still find misleading information on the Skechers website as of – January 29, 2014 – about the Shape Up shoes.  All these statements were found on the Skecher website after a simple Google search:

  • Increase lower leg muscle activation
  • Increase calorie burn
  • Improve posture
  • Reduce moderate back pain

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  Even after the judgment was released the company made the following statement as reported on

"The Company fully stands behind its toning shoe products and technology and is permitted under the settlement to continue to advertise that wearing rocker-bottom shoes like Shape-ups can lead to increased leg muscle activation, increased calorie burn, improved posture and reduced back pain," Michael Greenberg, president of Skechers, said in a company statement.

Seriously?  What was the whole point of the lawsuit if not to get Skechers from making false claims?  They didn’t admit guilt, they will do a little more research, then they will gently edit some of their advertisement messaging but essentially continue on with business as usual.  A $40 million dollar slap in the face which is minuscule to the amount of revenue that Skechers has generated over the last several years as they have been promoting the product.

Despite all the hoopla around the celebrity endorsements, false advertisement claims, shabby research, and multi-million dollar lawsuit, apparently the shoe isn’t all that bad.  A quick sampling of the Amazon reviews show very positive comments from consumers who have bought and used the product.  A small sampling state the following:

  • If you have foot pain, you MUST buy these shoes right now!!
  • These shoes rock.
  • Walking on clouds.

All in all there are a few life lessons in this whole deal.  Consumers and the government do pay attention to advertisement messages and you can be at risk for damages.  If you have a big enough company and make enough sales, it is possible that the damages you have to pay pale in comparison to the sales you made through the deceptive advertising campaign.  You can get a celebrity to say just about anything as long as you pay them enough money.  The whole situation is an ethical relativistic nightmare of our capitalistic money hungry society. You’re the consumer. You get to decide.  Should this be business as usual for Skechers and their Shape Ups or is this poor form by Skechers and should you now avoid their products in the future?  Consumers always have a choice and they do it with their wallets and word of mouth. How we choose to act and influence those around us is up to us.

(All credit and accolades for this tremendous blog post are for Ryan LaRue who is the author and creator of this content.)

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