Kinoki “Detox” Foot Pads peaked in popularity in early 2008, when they were all over TV commercials and people bought them up hoping to rid their bodies of toxins by simply wearing the pads on their feet at night. Since then, manufacturers have released detox foot pads on the market.
But are detox foot pads a hoax? There is no reliable evidence that these foot pads work. Yet Kinoki Foot Pads are still on the market. You can buy a package of 10 online. The reviews are about half positive and half negative. It seems this product has its believers and its hecklers.
Let's dive into the claims.
The Claims Behind the Packaging
Kinoki Detox Foot Pads became popular via TV commercials beginning in late 2007. You still can buy the pads in groups of 10 or even 100.
The pad is placed on the bottom of the feet and supposedly absorbs toxins from the body as you sleep.
"Kinoki foot pads collect heavy metals, metabolic wastes, toxins, parasites, cellulite and more, giving you back your vitality and health," is a direct quote from the commercials, which featured a lot of feet and darkened pads -- "proof" that the pads leach toxins from your body overnight. The more you use these pads, the less dark the pads become over time.
The makers of the foot pads -- led by a man named Juda Levin, who owned the now-defunct company Xacta 3000, Inc. -- went so far as to claim these pads can treat a host of other problems including high blood pressure. They claimed the pads can make your headaches, depression, insomnia and even cellulite go away, and they can help you lose weight. According to the marketing, it was an “ancient Japanese secret to perfect health.”
The Press Starts Investigating
In 2008, when the commercials were hitting the air and people were buying up the pads in the hopes of a miracle fix, bloggers stepped in and started investigating the company claims.
TheMockDock blog tried them out and videotaped the whole experiment. Dr. Z gave a scambuster report on the foot pads.
And then the national media stepped in. John Stossel of the TV show 20/20 reported on the pads back in April 2008. Stossel was famous for consumer reporting for ABC. He investigated outrageous claims to see if there was any case for truth.
He recruited volunteers to try out the pads and while some did notice they got better sleep or had more energy, the vast majority did not. And none experienced the lightening over time of the foot pads, as the advertisements claimed would happen.
Stossel also had a lab test the claims that the pads absorbed toxins from the body. According to Stossel's article, "the lab tested for a lot of things, including heavy metals like arsenic and mercury and 23 solvents, including benzene, toluene, and styrene and found none of these on the used pads."
What they did find was that the darkening of the pads was caused by wetness caused by the feet during the night. When placed in steam, the pad darkened in the same way.
So if the whole thing is a scam and a great big hoax, then why are people still buying them, still using them and still writing positive Amazon.com reviews on them?
The Placebo Effect
The reviews on Amazon.com were critical, 1-star reviews, 40 percent are positive reviews. The comments are filled with claims that using the pads helped people sleep better, filled them with energy in the morning and even fixed the arthritis problem one woman had in her knee. Amazon has removed this page.
Doctors attribute these positive results to a placebo effect. People feel better because they think they should feel better.
"I think what we're seeing with treatments like Kinoki footpads is that people are expecting them to help, and expecting to feel better, and some people feel better just by chance, and some people feel better because of the expectation," said Dr. George Friedman-Jimenez, the then-director of the Bellevue / New York University Occupational and Environmental Medicine Clinic in New York City to ABC News.
The FTC Steps In & Bans the Product
In the Fall of 2010, the Federal Trade Commission ordered a federal judge to ban the makers of the Kinoki Foot Pads from selling a wide variety of products. (See the press release from the FTC).
According to the FTC, the makers "falsely claimed to have scientific proof that the foot pads removed toxic materials from the body."
The makers of the foot pads agreed to a judgment of $14.5 million, which was all the profits from the pads, but from the press release, it's unclear if they were able to ever pay the claim.