The Federal Trade Commission is taking action against California-based Gravity Defyer Medical Technology Corporation and its owner Alexander Elnekaveh, filing a complaint in federal district court to permanently stop their allegedly deceptive pain-relief claims for Gravity Defyer footwear.
In a complaint filed in federal district court, the FTC alleged that Elnekaveh violated a 2001 order barring him from such allegedly deceptive advertising by making scientifically unsupported claims and using misleading consumer testimonials to sell Gravity Defyer products. The FTC claimed that the company’s advertisements often targeted older Americans suffering from pain-related conditions like arthritis.
“Ignoring a prior Commission order, Gravity Defyer and its owner used false pain-relief claims to target older Americans and undercut honest competitors,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Health–based claims require science-based proof, and faking it by misusing studies and customer reviews breaks the law.”
Since at least 2016, the defendants have advertised their Gravity Defyer footwear as containing soles with “VersoShock” technology that supposedly relieves pain, including pain in people suffering from numerous medical conditions. According to the FTC’s complaint, the ads claim, without competent and reliable scientific evidence, that Gravity Defyer footwear:
- will relieve pain, including knee, back and foot pain;
- will relieve pain in people suffering from multiple conditions such as plantar fasciitis, arthritis, joint pain, and heel spurs; and
- is clinically proven to relieve pain, including 85 percent less knee pain, 91 percent less back pain, 92 percent less ankle pain, and 75 percent less foot pain.
Gravity Defyer has sold more than 100 styles of footwear for men and women on its website, including athletic shoes, casual shoes, dress shoes, hiking shoes and boots, and sandals. Prices have ranged from $140 for men’s and women’s sandals to $155 for the widely advertised Mighty Walk walking shoes, and $235 for men’s work boots.
The company sells Gravity Defyer footwear on its own website, through its in-house call center, and at retailers throughout the country, including The Walking Company, Hammacher Schlemmer, and Shoe City, according to the FTC. It advertises the products through magazine ads, Facebook ads, Internet ads, radio commercials and catalogs.
One of the company’s ads stated that Gravity Defyer shoes are “clinically proven pain defying footwear.” Another said, “Enjoy the benefits of exercise, with proven pain relief.” The company’s ads cite a study to back up their claims, but the FTC alleges this study has substantial flaws and was insufficient to determine the effects of wearing Gravity Defyer footwear.
In filing the complaint, the Commission is seeking an order permanently barring the defendants from making misleading or deceptive pain-relief claims, as well as civil penalties and other relief.
The Commission vote to authorize the staff to approve the complaint and proposed order was 4-0. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest.