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Letter To Florsheim

By Jimmy Reynolds
Posted on: 4/5/2002

Florsheim attempts to defend its marketing with bad logic and poor science.

Like thousands of other skeptics, I recently e-mailed the Florsheim shoe company to share some thoughts on their “MagneForce” product line:

In recent years, sophisticated commercial marketing has almost succeeded in undoing three centuries of scientific enlightenment. Any claim, no matter how ludicrous or thoroughly discredited, can achieve acceptance if it is slickly packaged and convincingly presented to an ever more gullible public.

Your Magneforce promotional material, and the products themselves, are perfect examples. We have seen similar claims from garage entrepreneurs and cranks for many years now. The involvement of a major corporation, however, is almost without precedent. Your greed and presumed ignorance represent a major step in this society’s headlong plunge into a new dark age.

Unwarranted and physically impossible claims for the effects of magnetism are nothing new. They were a common feature of 19th-century quackery.

The CSICOP organization has to mince words when they criticize these products. I don’t. “Magneforce” products, and your claims for them, are a disgraceful attempt to exploit public confusion and ignorance.

James Reynolds
Florsheim’s response:
Dear Mr. Reynolds:

Florsheim has not made nor will make false or misleading
statements regarding the benefits of MagneForce or any
other Florsheim product. Consistent with the statements
of other manufacturers of magnetic products, our marketing
materials make no claims for curing disease, but represent
a composite of the findings published in a number of
studies and other information concerning magnetic therapy. 

Biomagnetics have been in use for centuries, and magnetic
therapy is an accepted form of treatment administered by
medical doctors in numerous foreign countries, including
Japan and Germany. In addition, the number of anecdotal
reports from physical therapists, athletes, sports
trainers and others who have used magnetic therapy
successfully, continues to increase. More individuals are
beginning to utilize this low cost, non-invasive approach,
as evidenced by the proliferation of magnetic products in
the marketplace and their increasing sales. As we have
previously stated, Florsheim MagneForce casual footwear
was created in response to demand from our MagneForce golf
footwear customers who wanted to experience the benefits
of this technology in street shoes. 

Florsheim did not invent magnetic insoles, nor do we
position ourselves as experts on magnetic therapy. In our
marketing materials, we state candidly and forthrightly
that magnetic therapy does not work for everyone. Our
purpose is to provide a selection of fine quality footwear
incorporating magnetic insoles in response to increasing
demand from consumers who believe they benefit from this

Bill Wirz
Manager, e-Commerce
Florsheim Group Inc.
Now, my comments:

Florsheim sounds determined to fight this out. The logic of this response, if you can call it that, is terrible.

“Florsheim has not made nor will [sic] make false or misleading statements regarding the benefits of MagneForce or any other Florsheim product.”

I wouldn’t expect a confession, and with lawsuits being filed, Florsheim will have to be pretty aggressive in its own defense.

“Biomagnetics have been in use for centuries…”

So has powdered rhino horn, but that doesn’t make it an effective substitute for Viagra; and you could be arrested for selling it.

“…and magnetic therapy is an accepted form of treatment administered by medical doctors in numerous foreign countries, including Japan and Germany.”

This combines two fallacies in appealing to popularity and authority at the same time. It’s odd that I’m the one defending scientific medicine, but he is invoking the alleged authority of medical doctors, even though the great majority of legitimate medical doctors reject magnetic therapy.

“Florsheim did not invent magnetic insoles…”

No, some 18th-century quack probably did that.

I sent all this along to CSICOP and got the following response.

Thanks for forwarding your exchange with Florsheim to us.
Any new responses from Florsheim are very informative for
us, especially when they come from an actual human being
at the company. 

I agree that this may be a long haul, with Florsheim
fighting to the very end. I'm disappointed that they're
using the same shabby reasoning -- especially when CSICOP
took the time to point out exactly where they'd gone off
the deep end. 

Yours truly,
Kevin Christopher
PR Director 
For more info on CSICOP’s efforts, see their articles on Florsheim.

Last month, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) offered its famous One Million Dollar Prize to Florsheim if Florsheim can prove the efficacy of MagneForce products in controlled tests. Don’t hold your breath. There’s plenty more on the JREF web site, including other correspondence with the redoubtable Mr. Wirz. Note how Florsheim’s claims have evolved, as it were, in response to the firestorm of criticism and scoffing.

The Onion also ran a very funny parody of Florsheim’s claims. [The parody is now a “premium” article - Ed.]

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