LAUREL, Md. - You've seen the ads for shoes that claim they'll tone your butt and make you stronger with every step. But are you doing harm by wearing those shoes? ABC2 News Investigator Joce Sterman says claims are stacking up from women who say those shoes didn't shape them up. Instead, they claim the shoes sent them walking to the doctor's office.
Like many women, Laurel's Beverly Moore considers herself a shoe addict. She says, "You know, shoes, diamonds are a girl's best friend."
But this girl can only wear spicy heels for show at this point. She's nursing broken toes from a fall that happened while walking in another pair of shoes last March. She explains, "I made a wrong balance and it threw me over. I fell. When I fell I heard something pop."
Beverly didn't trip in heels. She says she was wearing Skechers Shape-Ups, one of several pairs of toning sneakers she used to sport all the time. Moore says, "I thought I was going to have a firm butt and that I was going to have tight glutes."
Why wouldn't she? These shoes say they'll help you tone up. That's why they've become so popular. But not everybody's talking about their results. Some, like Beverly, are complaining about the pain they've caused. Attorney Andy Bederman with DC firm Greenberg and Bederman tells ABC2, "I've had over 400 calls and inquiries since May."
Bederman plans to sue Skechers on Beverly's behalf and says he's got at least 40 other clients too. In his words, "The design of the shoe is unstable. It frequently causes the ankle to roll inward or outward and then the person falls and suffers all types of injuries."
Bederman claims his clients have suffered broken bones, muscle tears and other injuries; all caused by what he calls a defective design. And he says people haven't been warned about the potential for harm, so he's seeking damages and more. Bederman says, "Ultimately we'd like to see the product withdrawn from the market."
Skechers is quick to defend its product. The company says it is confident the product is safe. The President of the Skechers Fitness Group, Leonard Armato, told us in a written statement, "The technology for rocker bottom shoes like Shape-ups has been around for nearly 30 years and has been studied in some of the leading sports medicine clinics in the world. Rocker bottom shoes also have been sold commercially since at least 1996—with no significant reports of injury until just recently, and those claims remain unproven."
There are some recent reports, with more than 70 complaints posted on the Consumer Product Safety Commission's Safer Products message board since April. But that's a small number considering thousands of pairs have sold since then and been worn without a problem.
Amanda Adkins, the Director of Outpatient Rehab at Anne Arundel Medical Center, hears a lot about shaping shoes and Skechers specifically. She says, "People either love them or they hate them."
Adkins isn't surprised to hear people claim they've been hurt. Like high heels, these shoes shift your balance and change your walking pattern, so you've got to adjust. Adkins reminds potential buyers they're not for everyone and every activity, "It's all about what people think. And if it's going to get them to exercise, that's not a bad thing. You just have to make sure that that shoe is right for you."
Beverly Moore knows now they're not right for her. She's curbed her shoe addiction, at least when it comes to Shape-Ups, "I won't buy those anymore."
Skechers says their product comes with a video and instructions on how to use them and that wearers should follow the instructions and use common sense. So far, one lawsuit has been filed against the company. Skechers says it is aggressively defending itself against the baseless allegations in that case.
SKECHERS FULL STATEMENT FROM LEONARD ARMATO
PRESIDENT, SKECHERS FITNESS GROUP
"Skechers is always concerned about the safety of its products, and the Company is confident that Shape-ups are safe.
The technology for rocker bottom shoes like Shape-ups has been around for nearly 30 years and has been studied in some of the leading sports medicine clinics in the world. Rocker bottom shoes also have been sold commercially since at least 1996—with no significant reports of injury until just recently, and those claims remain unproven.
Like other products—including high-heeled shoes and roller or ice skates—rocker bottom shoes are slightly unstable. Because the rocker bottom design keeps you a little off balance, you use otherwise underutilized muscles to retain balance and proper positioning while standing or walking. This instability is what allows Shape-ups to do their job. Without that instability, you wouldn't get the fitness benefits.
It is immediately apparent the moment you try on a pair of Shape-ups or any other rocker bottom shoe that they affect your balance.
Every pair of Shape-ups comes with written instructions and a video explaining how to use them.
If you review those materials, you'll see that the basic idea is to keep your weight centered, pay attention to where your feet are, and to not exceed your personal comfort or exercise tolerance levels.
We encourage our customers to follow the enclosed instructions and exercise common sense. Just as the millions of pairs of high-heel shoes that are sold annually aren't suitable for everyone, Shape-ups may not be either. People need to listen to their bodies and consult a doctor if they experience unusual balance issues or discomfort. Like other footwear products that inherently have some instability, Shape-ups are safe if used properly.
Regarding the question of whether Skechers Shape-ups really work, the answer is yes. Clinical studies have demonstrated that Shape-ups provide fitness benefits including increased muscle activation, greater energy consumption, increased metabolic rates, and the strengthening certain muscles.
Athletes and celebrities are also staking their names on the credibility of Shape-ups, including Joe Montana, Wayne Gretsky, Evander Hollyfield, Karl Malone, Kim Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Brooke Burke, fitness experts Denise Austin, Jill Brown and Andrea Metcalf.
But the best substantiation is the sheer popularity of Shape-ups. Skechers has received literally thousands of unsolicited testimonials from customers praising Shape-ups. Because our customers see and feel the results for themselves, they recommend Shape-ups to their families and friends.
You can see the scientific studies that support the fitness benefits of rocker-bottom footwear at www.toningshoestudies.com, which has seven clinical studies--two of them published in peer-reviewed journals. There are more than 30 studies that we know of that support the benefits of rocker-bottom shoes."