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'Barefoot' shoe makers Vibram forced to drop health claims

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 8:27 PM - Vibram USA burst onto the scene a few years ago with their FiveFingers 'barefoot' running shoes amid claims the products were capable of strengthening muscles in the feet and lower legs while improving balance, agility and posture.

Vibram's FiveFingers shoes have been making headlines for a few years now.

Designed to mimic barefoot running, the products have been flying off store shelves since 2009.

The company boasted the products were a must-have for runners, citing numerous health benefits.

But in 2012 some customers grew doubtful of the claims.

Valerie Bezdek brought a class action suit against the company in March of that year.

“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

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The court-case was settled last week with the company agreeing to partially refund U.S. customers who purchased a pair of the shoes between March 2009 and present day.

In Canada, the shoes sell for up to $125 a pair.

Members in the class-action suit can expect to receive a refund of $20 to $50 a pair.

The company is also being barred from making further health claims.

"Vibram will not make...any claims that FiveFingers footwear are effective in strengthening muscles or preventing injury unless that representation is true, non-misleading and is supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence," the settlement says.

To date, more than 70 million pairs of FiveFingers footwear has been sold in the U.S. alone.

Vibram has "expressly denied and continues to deny" any wrongdoing, stating the company opted to settle the matter to avoid incurring further legal expenses.

It's uncertain whether or not Canadian customers will qualify for a refund, according to Global News.

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