By: Martha Garcia | Published: January 24th, 2013
A growing number of product liability lawsuits continue to be filed over problems with Skechers Shape-ups and Tone-ups, alleging that the design of the toning shoes caused individuals to suffer various leg, ankle and foot injuries.
Skechers introduced the shoes with a pronounced rocker bottom sole, promoting the products with slogans such as “shape up while you walk,” suggesting that wearing the shoes would promote weight loss, tone muscles, improve posture, tighten abdominals, firm the buttocks, thighs and calves; among other claims. However, more than 50 lawsuits have been filed in the federal court system alleging that the Skecher Shape-up and Tone-up shoes feature a defective and dangerous design.
According to allegations raised in the Skechers lawsuits, the manufacturer intentionally misled consumers to believe the shoes were beneficial to their health, claiming that they would improve cardiac function and provide orthopedic benefits, despite any medical proof verifying these claims. In addition, claims indicate that the rocker bottom design actually caused or contributed to serious personal injuries for many consumers.
Plaintiffs indicate that the Manhattan Beach, California-based shoe company failed to perform adequate safety testing, even after complaints began to surface of consumers suffering injuries from the Skechers Shape-Up and Tone-Up shoes.
Injury Lawsuits Over Falls with Skechers Shape-Ups and Tone-Ups
Many of the complaints allege that the shoes actually lead to instability and alter the users normal gait, increasing the risk of falls.
In one of the most recently filed lawsuits (PDF), which was brought in the U.S District Court for the Western District of Kentucky on December 15, plaintiff Debbie Hadley alleges that the shoes actually caused her to suffer two lower leg fractures, a tear in her Achilles tendon, a sprained ankle and a shattered tibia.
According to the complaint, Hadley suffered a fall on her back porch steps while wearing the Skecher shoes, which ultimately led to the need for invasive surgery to place a rod and screw in her right tibia.
Hadley indicates that prominent medical literature has revealed changing gait mechanics can result in serious injuries, such as the ones she sustained. Injuries could include stress fractures, joint, tendon and ligament injuries. The complaint also indicates that an independent study by the American Council of Exercise (ACE) and the University of Wisconsin was conducted on rocker bottom shoes with no findings proving the shoes offer any health benefits.
“There is simply no evidence to support the claims that these shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone,” said ACE.
The lawsuit indicates the Skechers shoes are “unreasonably dangerous” and the company failed to exercise reasonable care in design, manufacturing, testing and marketing of the shoes. It also claims Skechers continued to market the products even though they were aware of the problems.
Mounting Skechers Litigation
In the federal court system, all product liability lawsuits over Skechers Shape-Up and Tone-Up shoes have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, which is centralized before U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell in the Western District of Kentucky.
According to the most recent case list (PDF) released by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, there were at least 54 lawsuits centralized as part of the Skechers MDL as of January 14.
In March 2012, Skechers Shape-Ups class action lawsuit was also filed on behalf of individuals who purchased the shoes, alleging that the shoes were sold at a “premium price” without providing the claimed benefits. That complaint indicates that consumers were led to believe the design would allow them to develpp toned muscles without the need to go to the gym, even though the manufacturer has released no data to backup up the claims.
Skechers has faced an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which could result in substantial fines. The U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission has also received a large number of injury reports involving the shoes, with reports involving the toning shoes exceeding any other product in the regulatory agencies database as of May 2011.