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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

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
blucola May 10 2014 at 4:13 PM

I haven't lost a bit of weight wearing those tone up shoes like Sketcher advertised, but they did help me with my low arches. I can walk all day using these kinds of shoes. So maybe the weight-loss claim was false, but it doesn't mean they are bad shoes. As for the Vibram's? They look like trouble without even trying them on. I've never been tempted by them.

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1 reply
natalie blucola May 10 2014 at 4:29 PM

BUT sketcher's still made a false claim, common sense tells anyone with a brain, SHOES CAN'T AND WON'T HELP ANYONE LOSE WEIGHT.... it amazes me how gullible people are smh

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The Bullseye! May 10 2014 at 11:26 AM

Capitalism can be Ruthless!

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vietnamveteran1 May 10 2014 at 11:29 AM

Face it the only ones making out on this deal are the lawyers. Lawyers always make out great in class action suits,they rake in millions.

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3 replies
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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3 replies
libra8 May 10 2014 at 12:05 PM

They are toes not fingers.

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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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Chris May 10 2014 at 12:48 PM

Most idiotic looking "shoes:-EVER

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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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1 reply
touchsoothesthesoul David Allen May 10 2014 at 3:43 PM

Hey David, I have owned my 5F since 2009 and absolutely LOVE THEM! I wear them everyday, I am a Massage Therapist (my handle provide any clues?!) and find that they bend and conform to the body extension/toe lifts etc. required when applying proper body mechanics. I like that they conform to my feet and provide the right amount of shock absorbing tread on the toe/heel. They are GREAT for people who stand on their feet all day! As a matter of fact, I would gladly purchase a new pair TODAY if they could design some that keeps your feet from sweating and smelling up the joint as soon as you take them off!

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thewmsgrp May 10 2014 at 6:24 PM

Justice prevails in "product misrepresentations!"

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JOHN LYNN TERRY May 10 2014 at 11:02 AM

In truth, men and women were created to walk in pastures without shoes. But all we mostly do is walk on hard and flat surfaces and due to this we must have shoes which protect our feet.

When I was on vacation in St. Lucia, one of the places we went to was the islands volcano. There I saw a man without shoes and he gripped the rocks he climbed with his feet and toes. It amazed me the dexterity he had accomplished with his feet and gave me the idea that one of the reasons we suffer so from misaligned spines and joints was because we did not have the range of motion in waling and so forth the creator designed us for.

The shoes were a flop because running or walking on flat surfaces does not have many health benefits. Walking in meadows, grassy areas and irregular surfaces does.
It does because our feet are designed to pivot in their joints.

Strengthening all interconnecting muscles, joints, ligaments right on up to the spine.

But walking on level pavement fails in this way.

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