This article is part of the Arthritis Archives.
Dateline: August 17, 2000
Magnetic Shoes Attract Lawsuit
The Consumer Justice Center, a non-profit consumer protection group, filed suit on August 8, 2000 in Orange County, California against Florsheim Group, Inc., for selling MagneForce shoes as a health aid and pain remedy.
The suit asks that Florsheim be ordered to stop false advertising and refund the purchase price of approximately $122 to people who purchased the shoes. This is important news to people with arthritis who are targeted by the alternative treatment industry, which includes magnetic shoes, to help relieve their pain.
Florsheim, a shoe manufacturer with a 108 year history and fine reputation, first introduced MagneForce golf shoes in 1999. The success of the golf shoes prompted Florsheim to add magnets to dress and casual shoes in June 2000. On July 6, 2000, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) wrote a letter to Florsheim challenging "several factual errors and inaccuracies" in the marketing literature for MagneForce shoes. Many of the objectionable and unfounded claims which were on Florsheim's website have since been removed. As late as last week it was reported that one small paragraph remained on the website which said, "The first shoe with its own power supply. Comfortable, quality footwear constructed with a lightweight, flexible magnetic insole to generate a deep-penetrating magnetic field which increases circulation; reduces foot, leg, and back fatigue; provides natural pain relief and improved energy level". A check of the MagneForce website revealed that the paragraph has been even further reduced to say only, "Comfortable, quality footwear constructed with a lightweight, flexible magnetic insole".
To develop the MagneForce shoe line, Florsheim worked in conjunction with Magnetherapy, Inc. In the past Magnetherapy, Inc. has been warned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to stop making claims that its products relieve:
- tennis elbow
- low back pain
- migraine headache
- muscle soreness
- spurs / bunions
In fact, according to the Texas attorney general, in 1998 Magnetherapy, Inc. paid a $30,000 penalty and agreed to stop making the health claims for its magnetic products.
While it is not uncommon to see companies that make magnetic therapy products market their wares as having a variety of health benefits, the scientific evidence behind the claims is skimpy. Isolated studies do exist which indicate that magnets may relieve pain, for example, the Baylor College of Medicine clinical trial on post-polio victims. However, even more studies exist which suggest magnets do not relieve pain.
- In the January 1997 issue of the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, a study was published which pointed to no difference in pain relief between magnetic and non-magnetic insoles.
- In the March 8, 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), clinical trial results were published which revealed no therapeutic effect in magnetic belts for back pain.
In response to the March 8th issue, the August 2, 2000 issue of JAMA addresses the question, "Are magnets effective for pain control"?, via letters to the editor.
It will be interesting to see what impact, if any, the outcome of the Florsheim lawsuit will have on magnetic therapy and other alternative treatments which make claims of health benefit. Magnet therapy, which has become a popular alternative treatment, is a $5 billion a year worldwide industry. Magnetic devices ranging from relatively inexpensive bracelets to $400 mattress pads have caught the attention of many people willing to try anything to relieve their pain. Is there any true benefit to be derived from these products though?
The earlier studies have lead to a national study focusing on the effect of magnets on:
Until all conclusions can be drawn, companies making unsupported claims will be scrutinized. The flurry of people anxious to try new alternative treatments must be protected from businesses eager to cash in on their enthusiasm.
Florsheim Is Sued for Magnet Claims, by Neil Sherman, HealthSCOUT, 8/12/00
Lawsuit Filed Against Florsheim Group, Inc. in California, CSICOP Online 8/10/00