Vibram has settled a $3.75 million class action lawsuit over false claims that its FiveFingers running shoes have health benefits.
The Italian company, which makes the minimalist “barefoot shoes” that form around a runner’s five toes, was sued by Valerie Bezdek in March 2012. Bezdek claimed that the shoes did not reduce foot injuries and strengthen foot muscles as the company had advertised, Runner’s World reports. Additional lawsuits subsequently were filed in various states, leading Vibram to reach the recent settlement.
The $3.75 million will be deposited into an escrow account, and funds will then be distributed to those who purchased Vibram FiveFingers between March 21, 2009 and the date of the settlement notice. A maximum of $94 will be distributed for each pair of shoes purchased, although a much lower amount is expected to be given out. The remainder of the sum is to be donated to the American Heart Association for research as to the health benefits of running. Vibrams is also prohibited from making any claims that the FiveFingers shoes help reduce injury or strengthen muscles, unless it finds scientific evidence to support those claims.
“Vibram will not make ... any claims that FiveFingers footwear are effective in strengthening muscles or preventing injury unless that representation is true, non-misleading and is supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence,” the settlement says, according to the Huffington Post.
Vibram’s FiveFinger shoes were designed as an alternative to traditional running shoes, based on the belief that running as close as possible to “barefoot” is more beneficial for the health and strength of the foot. That may be true, but until scientific research proves it to be so, Vibram can no longer make those claims.