Thoughts on the Vibram Settlement from a Self-Proclaimed Cynic

A friend of mine sent me this article from Runner's World about a lawsuit against Vibram (the maker of the weirdly popular Five-Finger gorilla-looking running shoes) for making false claims of the health benefits of its shoes. I own a pair of Five Fingers. I bought a pair four years ago out of pure curiosity. I did no research before I purchased them. I just knew that my prefered running shoe is a minimal one--low to the ground, not a lot of padding, thin fabric, so the Five Fingers seemed perfect...plus they were on sale...who am I to turn away from a stellar deal on running shoes?! Once I eased into these shoes, I really liked them. However, they were not good for anything more than an easy 3-4 miler. I wore them once for a 4 mile tempo run, and I paid for it the next three day with sore, stiff muscles. That was my fault. Anyone who has been running for more than a few years knows that it takes time to ease into new running gear (shoes, socks, fuel, even clothes...). 

What I find disturbing about this article is the implication that we no longer need to be responsible consumers. The article states, "Bezdek [the woman who filed the lawsuit] Bezd 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." Folks who bought Vibrams during a certain time frame can file a claim and receive reimbursement for these shoes without even a proof of purchase. 

I do believe companies have a responsibility to be ethical in their advertising. Vibram should have provided research to support their claims. Maybe I'm cynical, but I just don't think that consumers should be able to simply return the shoes because the company didn't provide sufficient data. Shame on the customer for not being a critical consumer. We have a responsibility to be conscious about our purchases, don't we? This lawsuit just seems like an easy way out for irresponsible consumers. I tried accessing Vibram's website for more information on the settlement via the link in the RW article, and it wouldn't work. I did a Google search and sifted through three pages of articles on the settlement, but no actual website where I could find the claims to file. Needless to say, I will not be returning my Vibrams...


Bob Josjor said...

Be careful there, darlin'. You're starting to sound a bit conservative. : )

Kristin said...

I am actually reading a book right now (Born To Run, I highly recommend it!) that discusses the start of Vibram. They weren't originally a "health" shoe... they were a yacht shoe, so people could be on deck and have a stick surface but also feel barefoot. They weren't intended for running or hiking or anything originally, that is until a man named "Barefoot Ted" asked to be sponsored by them to run the Boston Marathon in their shoes. The company owner ran in a pair the day he got the call and thought they felt great so he sponsored him. Interesting.