Runners have long touted the benefit of “barefoot” running and Vibram, the company that created the FiveFingers shoe, is the one that started the hype. But a recent lawsuit alleged the claim lacked any scientific evidence to back it up. Now today the company has settled the suit and consumers who bought the shoes may be in for a refund.
Long before the FiveFingers shoe was sold to runners they were marketed to boaters for their non-slip sole. In time they came up with the idea of marketing the shoes to runners. Ads claimed that their minimal shoe mimicked the results of running barefoot and that this was better for you. Consumers agreed. Other shoe companies quickly followed suit with a host of thin rubber soled, toe hugging, running sneakers to follow.
Today all that has changed. A suit against the shoe giant claimed that they had no scientific evidence to back up claims that the FiveFinger shoe would reduce foot injuries or strengthen feet muscles. Vibram agreed today to put aside $3.75 million dollars from which it would pay refunds to anyone who had bought a pair of the shoes since March 21, 2009. For the consumer that could mean as much as $94 in refunds. No information has yet been released on how consumers can apply for their refunds or who is ultimately eligible.
Vibram is certainly not the first sneaker company to see its marketing claims challenged. Skechers has also had to settle lawsuits over fitness promises related to its popular Kardashian endorsed Shape-ups, Resistance Runner, and Tone-up style shoes.
As part of the settlement Vibram is refusing the claim of wrong doing and refusing any responsibility of fault or liability. Meanwhile the court is still out on the benefits of barefoot running. As many studies tout its benefits as there are ones that decry it’s dangers. The Vibram FiveFingers shoe was so popular that it has even been called out, by name, in some of these studies. This one 2013 study says specifically that “increases in bone marrow edema [the precursor to a stress fracture] are more common in subjects who were transitioning to the [Vibram FiveFingers],"
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