You know those running shoes, pictured above, that look like sock-gloves made out of a substance you’d use while cleaning a kitchen? They’re supposed to emulate the act of running barefoot, and became popular around the same time as other “return to the natural environment” trends like the Paleo Diet. But one of the companies that manufactures them, Vibram, has just agreed to pay $3.75 million and stop making “claims that FiveFingers footwear is effective in strengthening muscles or reducing injury” in a class-action settlement brought on behalf of buyers who felt swindled by “false and unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits” of the shoes. From Runner’s World:
Bezdek alleged that Vibram deceived consumers by advertising that the footwear could reduce foot injuries and strengthen foot muscles, without basing those assertions on any scientific merit. “The gist of her claim is that 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,” Harvard Law School professor, John C. P. Goldberg, told Runner’s World at the time of the original filing.
Customers who submit valid claims are expected to receive somewhere between $20 and $50 per pair. The company does not acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement.
For what it’s worth, the following passage still appears on a page of Vibram’s website titled “Why Barefoot Works“:
Just remember, improving the skill of those muscles then practicing and using those muscles in Vibram FiveFingers® will increase both endurance and strength. This will have profound beneficial effects on your body and wellbeing.