Our readers who are tired of the proliferation of webbed sports shoes on their favorite Miami running route may be seeing fewer of them in the future. The company FiveFingers barefoot sports shoes has settled a class-action suit involving allegations that it made misleading claims about their benefits. Moreover, podiatrists suggest they may actually cause harm to the wearer.
Vibram USA, which makes the shoes, has agreed to pay $3.75 million to settle the case. Customers who purchased FiveFingers shoes any time after March 2009 will reportedly receive a partial refund for each pair if they complete the appropriate documentation.
In the lawsuit, which began in 2012, plaintiffs charged that the company lacked the scientific evidence to support the shoes' advertised benefits. The company claimed, among other things noted in the suit, that the shoes improve range of motion, strengthen lower leg and feet muscles and allow the feet and body to move more naturally.
The American Podiatric Medicine Association testified during the case that the practice of barefoot running that the shoes are meant to simulate can be harmful. The APMA representative stated that barefoot running provides "a lack of protection" for the runner as well as "increased stress on the lower extremities."
Many lawsuits against manufacturers involve injury or even death to a consumer due to a defective product. However, companies that use deceptive marketing to sell a product can also face legal consequences. Even cautious Florida consumers rely to some degree on the claims made by a manufacturer. When people spend hard-earned money on products based on false advertising, they have a right to attempt to hold the maker of that product legally and financially responsible.
Source: KDVR-TV, "Refunds for toe shoes owners after maker settles false advertising suit" Will C. Holden, May. 13, 2014