Whether you've worn them yourself or you've seen others wearing them during your hike or jog, there's no doubt the Vibram FiveFingers have created quite the stir with their bizarre style for more than five years.
Although the shoe maker hasn't admitted any wrong doing or fault, they've now settled a class-action lawsuit brought on by a women claiming the company deceived their consumers by promoting the shoes decrease foot injuries and strengthen foot muscles without any scientific backup.
The company has agreed to put aside $3.75 million to pay refunds to customers who bought the shoe for as much as $94 since March 21, 2009.
According to the court filings, Vibram settled to put the matter to rest and avoid any additional legal expenses. “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,” read the court brief.
Valerie Bezdek brought the class action suit against Vibram in March 2012. She filed her complaint in Massachusetts, the state where Vibram’s U.S. headquarters are located. 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. Subsequent class action suits were filed against Vibram in California and Illinois, and those were absorbed into Bezdek’s case.
The settlement consists of two kinds of relief. The first is refunds to class members who submit valid and completed claim forms. Vibram will deposit $3.75 million into an escrow account and those funds will be distributed to those valid class members who purchased a pair of Vibram FiveFingers between March 21, 2009 and the date of the first dissemination of summary settlement notice or class notice, whichever is earlier. FiveFingers will award up to a maximum of $94 per pair, though the agreement acknowledges that based on similar settlements it is reasonable for class members to expect to receive between $20 and $50 per pair.
Now the question remains as to whether or not the shoes actually created injuries. If so, this won't be the first settlement Vibram USA will have to make.