Did anyone really think that running (close to) barefoot was good for your legs? Short of being Taharumara where you have to run barefoot because there’s no money for $170 Hoka’s, logic and common sense should steer you toward cushioned insoles. Duh. But just last week Vibram decided it wasn’t worth the headache to fight against claims that it was the company’s fault for making you believe their shoes could decrease foot injuries and strengthen foot muscles. Vibram, though not admitting guilt, has agreed to a $3.75 million settlement to reimburse anyone who bought a pair of FiveFingers between March 21, 2008, and May 27, 2014. According to the lawsuits: Bezdek v. Vibram USA Inc., et al., De Falco v. Vibram USA Inc., et al., and Safavi v. Vibram USA Inc., et al, Vibram falsely advertised certain benefits associated with their FiveFingers footwear. I use my Vibram FiveFingers the way that nature intended- to keep me from slipping off things like a paddleboard, surfboard, boat deck, you get the idea. But if you thought you would be a healthier, better runner and deserve money back on your FiveFingers’ purchase, well, then you deserve to be unfriended.
The 2009 book Born to Run and several “scientific” studies celebrated barefoot running. They dissed traditional running shoes and a new (stupid IMHO) trend was born. ‘Minimalist’ footwear sales grew by 303 percent between November 2010 and November 2012 and now makes up 10 percent of the $588 million U.S. running shoe market. If you bought a pair of FiveFingers then you bought into this trend. The shoe was not only favored by thousands when it hit the market but people still buy them for a variety of uses including everyday walking and standing. I remember seeing them on a massage therapist during a session as his feet danced around my table. “I will not be participating in this farce,” touted one FiveFingers fan. “FiveFingers are good shoes as long as you know what the hell you are doing. I have three pairs and use them for even long runs when I have built up enough tolerance for them. Good company. This lawsuit is a joke!”
The lawsuit claims that Vibram oversold the shoes’ abilities. Both Skechers and Reebok faced similar reproach after the Federal Trade Commission charged they had misled people about the weightloss and toning benefits of their shoes. The companies agreed to pay out $40 million and $25 million, respectively, to buyers. But those shoes were ugly and did nothing for your butt. I understand why the FTC might want to keep a lid on the sales of snake oil but just because their shoes didn’t work for you personally doesn’t mean you’ll prevail in an actual lawsuit. Just return the damn shoes to REI and move on. Vibram technically didn’t fraud anyone but defending themselves isn’t worth the battle. Unfortunately, if they went to court they would have to basically prove that barefoot running is better and, excuse the pun, the jury’s out on that one.
If you do happen to own a pair of FiveFingers you can do one of FiveThings:
- Submit a Claim Form by Sept. 24, 2014, and probably get between $25-50 per pair depending on how many boneheads want a buck (the overall settlement will be divided among all the claimants;
- Exclude Yourself from the case by Aug. 15, 2014
- Object to the Settlement, in writing, and served by Aug. 15, 2014; (too much work!)
- Go to a Hearing by submitting a notice of Intention to Appear form, in writing, and file it with the Court on or before August 15, 2014; (again, too much work.)
- Do Nothing
Of course you can also go out and buy yourself a new pair on sale. They really are great water shoes!