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Vibram to refund customers $3.75M for false claims

Vibram To Refund Customers $3.75M For False Claims

Vibram's interesting looking FiveFinger shoes might not be as health savvy as the company has claimed and its costing them a whopping $3.75 million.

The shoe company recently settled a class action lawsuit after making misleading claims about their footwear.

Valeri Bezdek filed a lawsuit against Vibram in March 2012. Runner's World summed up her complaint, saying, "Vibram illegally obtained an economic windfall from her because it was only by making false health claims that Vibram induced consumers to buy FiveFingers shoes, and to pay more for them than they would have otherwise.

You might remember a few years ago, buying shoes that looked like gloves for your feet was a health craze.

From "The Doctors": "We're wearing the Vibram five-finger shoes right now because believe it or not new research from Harvard says may be better for your foot than traditional running shoes."

From Vibram: "I feel less wear and tear in my joints. My arches and my feet have actually strengthened.My knees, hips and back are healthier than ever."

The success of these shoes was in the midst of the what The Washington Post calls the "minimalists boom."

Major shoe companies like Nike and Brooks jumped on the bandwagon also making barely-there footwear. A Washington Post writer says, "such footwear made up 10 percent of the $588 million U.S. running shoe market and had grown by 303 percent between November 2010 and November 2012, compared with 19 percent for running shoe sales overall."

But despite massive popularity and presumed health benefits, Medical Daily reports that a
study from 2013 clearly spells out the shoes can lead to more cases of foot bone marrow edema than traditional shoes.

The class action suit was settled just this past week and will hit Vibram in the pockets two different ways.

First, the company will have to use that $3.75 million figure to refund runners who bought the shoes after March 21, 2009. Ars Technica reports customers could receive anywhere from $20 to $50.

Secondly, Vibram will have discontinue claims that their footwear strengthens muscle (until they prove it); the company has to to advertise about the settlement, deliver around 300 million impressions of the ads and make all the information available on Facebook and its website www.fivefingerssettlement.com.

This isn't the first time a shoe company has had to pay-up for false advertisement.

NBC reports this is similar to when the FTC sued Sketchers for $40 million in 2012 over their "Shape Up" shoes. They found the shoes did not help consumers get toned up, lose weight or improve posture - as the shoe company claimed.

NBC points out the Reebok also got caught that same year making misleading claims when promoting its EasyTone shoes that were supposed to improve muscle tone. They refunded $25 million dollars to customers.

Although the company settled the lawsuit, USA Today reports Vibram still claims they didn't mislead consumers.

"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."

CNBC reports, Vibram will allow previous show buyers to file their claims on their settlement website starting Wednesday, May 14.

Join the discussion

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cherylhaass May 11 2014 at 6:06 PM

Have we completely abandoned the old maxim "let the buyer beware"? Shouldn't silly people who buy goofy looking shoes pay ANY consequences? OF COURSE companies will exaggerate the qualities of their product; that's called advertising. So why aren't they suing Harvard for the study that SAID the shoes were beneficial? Was any such study really done? I don't think anyone was harmed by these shoes, except for their EGOS, when they finally realized that they'd been HAD! People need to use their common sense and think twice before spending money on silly stuff; not file a lawsuit because they got ripped off...again...But, then again, how else do lawyers survive?

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1 reply
nproblus cherylhaass May 11 2014 at 7:11 PM

You need to re-read the ad, so that in the future, no one tries to sue you for being stupid. When a company makes a claim, it can't be false. People assume the claims are true due to laws that protect them. Makes sense, right? Otherwise, each individual would constantly have to spend money to research whether a claim was honest. With laws, such as selling food that is not contaminated with Salmonella, we don't have to continually go the "buyer beware" road as you recommend. You cannot tell if Harvard did the study, or the company was fibbing about Harvard doing the study from the way the article was written, so...why ask if people were suing Harvard. Seems logical that Harvard did not do a study, but if they did, the hedges with the word "may". You say, "I don't think anyone was harmed by these shoes, except for their EGOS, when they finally realized they had been HAD!", but that only points to your lack of reading comprehension. Read the article. There as harm. Dummy.

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David Addison nproblus May 12 2014 at 9:54 PM

You just made zero sense. The article clearly sites the Harvard reference. If you were so stupid, maybe you'd do a little link diving before carrying on about a topic you clearly know nothing about.

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ELGlueckert May 10 2014 at 1:50 PM

Since when were toes considered fingers?

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dwtomczyk May 10 2014 at 1:26 PM

why would someone put on shoes harder than loafers?

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Charlootz May 10 2014 at 1:02 PM

Want to make a fortune on this earth? Make something stupid and sell it to the dumb generation X'ers yuppies and the following generations - face it - what other generations put tattoos on their faces and bodies like circus freaks, pierce their bodies and private parts with steel bars, put grommets in their ears and dress in baggy shapeless clothing with their hats on like Spanky? Get them yuppie bucks!!!

These shoes were nothing new - there were worn by clowns at Ringling Brothers Circus for a century - see? Nothing has changed! A generation of morons, texting.....

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fredonesaid49 Charlootz May 10 2014 at 1:27 PM

Charlootz did you hit the nail on the head, I don't fault the company, I fault the stupid public at what we have become and that's the sad part.

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pvevans01191980 May 10 2014 at 12:56 PM

People wear what feels comfortable on their feet. End of story. if someone can run and walk in these and they make their feet feel better, or are just comfortable then good for them. But they are not going to be for everyone. I can't stand flip flops, they are the most uncomfortable things I have ever put on my feet (so I dont' wear them...imagine that), but my sister lives in them all summer. To each their own.

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David Allen May 10 2014 at 12:53 PM

I wear Vibram Five Finger shoes every day because they feel good and make my feet happy. Not because of anything anyone claimed. They are good for me and are the most comfortable shoe I have ever worn in my 65 years of walking on this planet.

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Chris May 10 2014 at 12:48 PM

Most idiotic looking "shoes:-EVER

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teetse May 10 2014 at 12:31 PM

Different people need different kinds of shoes and this was another option. I do the best when I am barefoot. Some body types and health conditions do not do well with a bouncy shoe. My podiatrist told me wear a hard sole leather shoe and not atheletic shoes. I wanted to try these but I guess I was too late!

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libra8 May 10 2014 at 12:05 PM

They are toes not fingers.

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edevoresbc May 10 2014 at 11:50 AM

My foot was injured in 2003, I saw specialists and did stretches and exercises. Nothing worked, the pain was so intense that I could barely walk after getting out of bed in the morning. Any walking or stairs would take it's toll and the muscle would stiffen. I bought inserts, arch supports, wrapped my foot...the problem only got worse. My son suggested the toe shoes. The salesman suggested I wear them only a couple hours a day and walk backwards and toe/heel foot stretch while walking. Between the shoes and a monthly foot massage/stretch...I finally was able to walk pain free in 2012.

All, I know is that the change from a running/walking athletic shoe to the toe shoe made a positive change for me.

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1 reply
Mark edevoresbc May 10 2014 at 12:22 PM

That is awesome! Congrats!

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