Skechers lawsuit: A farewell to clunky shoes


This undated handout image provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shows and advertisement for Skechers fitness shoes. (AP/AP)

This could mean the end of these Kardashian-endorsed clunky, orthopedic-inspired shoes at last — because who would buy them knowing that they not only do nothing for your health, but also make your feet look like crudely drawn cartoons (Shape-Ups, I’m looking at you)? Though Skechers stands by its claims, it will pay $40 million to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission, most of which will go toward consumer refunds. The company is also prohibited from making unsubstantiated health claims about its shoes.

Such claims can trick us into doing a lot of silly-looking things — Zumba, for example. But footwear can be particularly flummoxing, since the average American knows little about how the shape of a shoe can affect posture and health, otherwise no one would wear high heels.

But at least high heels have a sexy silhouette on their side. It’s tougher for ugly shoes, which have fallen upon hard times lately. There’s currently a class-action lawsuit underway against Vibram, maker of the FiveFingers ”toe” shoes that make wearers’ feet look like monkey paws. Running in them may increase your risk of injury, according to the suit. Crocs — long synonymous with hideous footwear — have never been accused of false advertising, but the company’s stock tanked in 2008, perhaps after people realized how awkward and clunky they looked. Heelys, the roller-skating sneakers that kids loved and teachers hated, were also hit with a class-action lawsuit, this one relating to investor disclosure. Only Uggs, the unlovely boots made popular by celebrities in the mid 2000s (which never made any claims about health, but are listed here for their obstinate unwillingness to be fashionable), remain unscathed.

Above all, the Skechers story is about the same impulse that leads Americans to try fad diets and pop weight-loss pills: The promise of a better body without having to do any of the work it takes to get one. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. And if you think your footwear might make you look like you’re wearing Moon Shoes, it probably does.

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.

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