A pair of Vibram FiveFinger running shoes, which the company used to claim gave wearers certain health benefits.
Vibram has settled a class-action lawsuit that accused the company of making false and unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of its Vibram FiveFingers footwear, according to a report Tuesday from Runner’s World. The company will put $3.75 million into an escrow account to pay out settlements to class members and will remove all claims that its products either strengthen muscles or reduce injuries—unless it comes up with proof.
Vibram was one of the driving forces behind the “barefoot” or “minimalist” running trend. Claims circulated that this style of running made athletes less prone to injury, made them more efficient, and strengthened muscles in the foot and lower leg that were otherwise made soft and ineffectual by modern, cushy running shoes. The minimalist shoes also enjoyed popularity among the finicky tech set, often adorning the feet of Google co-founder Sergey Brin and appearing recently in the satirical HBO show Silicon Valley.
Whether running barefoot is actually superior to using normal running shoes has been increasingly called into question over the last few years. While early studies showed that the barefoot style could reduce impact in areas like knees that are prone to strain, later studies found that the strain simply shifted to other parts of the leg and foot. Barefoot running is not necessarily better—just different. In response, Valerie Bezdek filed her class-action suit against Vibram in Massachusetts in March 2012.
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