(Reuters) - Reebok International Ltd has agreed to pay $25 million to settle charges that it made unsupported claims that its "toning shoes" provide extra muscle strength, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said on Wednesday.
The penalty will go toward consumer refunds.
The FTC said in its complaint that Reebok, a unit of Adidas AG, falsely claimed in advertising that its EasyTone and RunTone shoes "strengthen and tone key leg and buttock (gluteus maximus) muscles more than regular shoes."
"The FTC wants national advertisers to understand that they must exercise some responsibility and ensure that their claims for fitness gear are supported by sound science," said David Vladeck, director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection.
The agency said Reebok began making the claims in early 2009, and provided statistics about the purported benefits of the toning shoes.
The FTC said that in one commercial, Reebok advertised that its EasyTone shoes are proven to strengthen hamstrings and calves by up to 11 percent, and to tone the buttocks up to 28 percent more than regular sneakers, just by walking.
The refunds will be made available either directly from the FTC or through a court-approved class action lawsuit, the FTC said.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington; editing by John Wallace and Gerald E. McCormick)