August 1, 2011

Next time you’re out for a stroll and find yourself on a bench admiring the Portland skyline, look at the shoes of everyone who passes. Anyone you see wearing rocker-bottom walking shoes has been duped, according to a product liability claim against the manufacturer of one popular brand.

The plaintiff, whose ankle sustained a serious injury when the shoe rolled inward, is just one of many who have filed suit against the manufacturer since February of this year. The shoes, as the complaint put it, “produced a substantial risk of causing chronic injuries and inducing falls.” The fault lies in the shoes distinctive elevated rocker-bottom sole.

The sole’s design has two effects, the complaint says: It creates instability, and it changes the gait of the wearer. The dangers were neither open nor obvious to the plaintiff, because the manufacturer advertised the unique design as promoting well-being.

Among the claims the manufacturer made were that these rocker-bottom sneakers promote weight loss, tighten abdomen muscles, improve posture, reduce stress on knee and ankle joints and improve your life by changing the way you walk. (These claims and more are listed in the complaint in ¶46.)

Unfortunately, not a one of those claims is true. The complaint cites a study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise that found no difference between these shoes and a regular running shoe. “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,” the researchers concluded.

The complaint also cites a Consumer Reports article from this past May. The shoes the plaintiff was wearing have been the subject of more injury reports or complaints “than any other product in its database.”

The manufacturer’s claims of scientific evidence? Again according to the complaint, none of the company’s studies was peer-reviewed.

The company would not comment on this suit. A spokesperson maintained that “millions of people” wear the shoes without incident.

A class action suit is also pending. Those plaintiffs say the company has committed fraud by making claims of health benefits in the shoes’ marketing campaigns.

Source: Complaint with Demand for Jury Trial, Croak v. Skechers, United States District Court for the District of Columbia, 11-cv-01458-TFH, filed Aug. 11, 2011


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