You may be entitled to a refund if you bought those goofy, glove-style shoes.
Vibram USA, manufacturer of the popular Vibram® FiveFingers® shoes, has agreed to offer customer refunds in settlement of a class action lawsuit.
Valerie Bezdek filed the class action lawsuit in 2012, charging that Vibram engaged in deceptive marketing practices by claiming unsubstantiated health benefits of using their FiveFingers shoes, including that the product would:
- Strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs,
- Improve range of motion in the ankles, feet, and toes,
- Stimulate neural function important to balance and agility,
- Eliminate heel lift to align the spine and improve posture, and
- Allow the foot and body to move naturally.
The product’s website said FiveFingers would improve proprioception and body awareness, reduce lower back pain and injury, and generally improve foot health.
According to Bezdek’s complaint, Vibram misled consumers about the scientific research supporting benefits of barefoot running and had no data to substantiate the health benefits of wearing FiveFingers shoes.
Vibram has denied any wrongdoing but entered into a settlement to avoid costs of a legal battle.
“Even though Vibram expressly denies any wrongdoing, Vibram considers it desirable for these cases to be settled and dismissed, because this Settlement will finally put Plaintiffs’ claims and the underlying matters to rest and will avoid the substantial expense, burdens, and uncertainties associated with the continued litigation of these claims and cases,” the company said in the settlement filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts.
According to Runner’s World, the company has agreed to pay $3.75 million into an escrow account to pay refunds to buyers of FiveFingers shoes who submit a claim. Any money left over after claims, legal fees and administrative costs are paid will be donated to the American Heart Association for running-related research.
Vibram will continue to sell FiveFingers shoes, but will stop claiming the shoes improve health or prevent injuries without having scientific proof to back those claims.
To facilitate refund claims, Vibram will establish a website at www.fivefingerssettlement.com in the near future and will run online banner advertisements to notify consumers of the settlement.
Consumers who purchased Vibram FiveFingers shoes after March 21, 2009 may be eligible for a refund up to $94 per pair.
Online public response to the settlement is mixed, with some people eager to know where to file their claim and others who seem to be loyal fans of FiveFingers, saying the shoes really did improve their running and reduce injuries.