New Balance faces lawsuit for 'toning shoes'

New Balance's Rock&Tone 1442 shoe.


JEREMY HOBSON: New Balance is about to get a 'run' for its money. The sneaker company faces a lawsuit that claims its 'toning shoes' don't do the job. The suit seeks class-action status for customers who believed the shoes would help them slim down -- from the ankles up.

Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman reports.

Mitchell Hartman: With its attractive 20-somethings showing off their sculpted legs and gluts, this New Balance ad says it all.

New Balance commercial: Burn calories and activate muscles. The toning shoe that doesn't look like one.

New Balance claims the shoes push muscles to burn more calories, because the rounded soles make walkers work harder to maintain balance. John Horan of Sporting Goods Intelligence says toning shoes are big sellers because women think they can walk their way to a fitter figure.

John Horan: These companies do studies to prove the claims. But the question has come up whether these studies have any real scientific validity.

The American Council on Exercise recently found toning shoes don't perform as advertised. Webster University sports economist Pat Rishe:

Pat Rishe: If New Balance is not able to defend its position, they potentially lose the trust of the segment of the population that's been buying these shoes.

Working women aged 20 to 55, who've been willing to spend upwards of $100 for shoes they think can make them look better.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.
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I have plantar Fascitis, dr. recommended a new balance shoe.bought 2 other n b styles, 1442 is sooo comfortable and i dont need ortho inserts, it's the only walking shoe i wear.

I have lots of trouble w/leg swelling and ankle pain. I didn't buy these for "toning" benefits I bought them for the cushion. They are the most comfortable shoe I own it feels like walking on air.

I purchased these shoes initially because they were "toning" sneakers. I found out that I did not notice any change in my muscle tone but I did purchase a sneaker that is very comfortable as I stand on my feet most of the day. I no longer have a lot of pain in my feet at the end of the day and I have just purchased three more pairs in different colors. Comfort is more important than anything.

I shackle cinder blocks to my ankles every day. I've got really hot legs now.

I have 12"x12" pieces of plywood that I will glue to the soles of your shoes. It will make it more difficult to walk and give your leg muscles a good workout. And I will only charge $90 for my product. Why pay $100 or more??

Yet another shining example of how predisposed Americans are to wanting to take the easy way out. Why work hard if you can buy this product that will (supposedly) do the work for you?

Unfortunately, you can't (and won't) have a slim figure unless you:

a) are genetically predisposed to being thin


b) work hard at it by eating right (which means eating less junk food and more food that is low in calories, fat, sugar, and carbs) and actually breaking a SWEAT when you exercise every day.

I bought a pair to wear while on the treadmill and just walking around weekends. I didn't expect them to add anything but comfort, and they are very comfortable. My back doesn't get sore like it does when I'm wearing ordinary tennis shoes/sneakers. They provide a great cushion!

This is not surprising. There is no secret (or magic shoes) to getting into shape and staying that way. You have to eat less and exercise.

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