Vibram’s ‘Barefoot Running’ Shoes: A Fraud?
I’m not going to lie… I have a pair of Vibram FiveFingers shoes sitting in my closet right now. I haven’t worn them enough to make anecdotes for or against their supposed barefoot “benefits.” But I was none the less slightly surprised when I read that Vibram recently settled a class action lawsuit against their company.
According to Matt McCue of RunnersWorld.com:
“Vibram USA, the company that makes FiveFingers running shoes, has agreed to settle a lawsuit that alleged the company made false and unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of its glove-like footwear. According to the court filings, Vibram settled to put the matter to rest and avoid any additional legal expenses. ‘Vibram expressly denied and continues to deny any wrongdoing alleged in the Actions, and neither admits nor concedes any actual or potential fault, wrongdoing or liability,’ read the court brief.”
A woman named Valerie Bezdek started this class action suit in early 2012. Although the suit was originally filed in Massachusetts (Vibram’s U.S. Headquarters) it was later joined by suits in California and Illinois.
While further research may be needed to discern whether minimalist running shoes are pure hype, Bezdek’s lawsuit was based on the claims that “Vibram deceived consumers by advertising that the footwear could reduce foot injuries and strengthen foot muscles, without basing those assertions on any scientific merit.”
Bezdek’s choice to sue Vibram may seem extreme, but her assertions did have enough merit to stop Vibram from making any further health claims about their shoes, and provide a $3.75 million dollar settlement to valid class action members.
Whether barefoot running will end up being considered “bunk” in the end is still to be determined, but one study did suggest that “Runners interested in transitioning to minimalist running shoes, such as Vibram FiveFingers should transition very slowly and gradually in order to avoid potential stress injury in the foot.”