Photo of Vibram Sprint FiveFingers via stevendamron/Flickr
A Florida woman has filed a lawsuit against Vibram USA alleging misleading advertising in promotional materials for the company's FiveFingers line of shoes. The plaintiff, Valerie Bezdek, accuses Vibram of inflating claims about the health benefits of barefoot running to market FiveFingers and charge a price premium over other brands.
The suit appears to piggyback off a similar complaint filed last year against Reebok for their EasyTone shoes, which Reebok said would give wearers nicer thighs and butts. (They don't!) That suit netted consumers a $25 million settlement and prompted this statement from the Federal Trade Commission:
“The FTC wants national advertisers to understand that they must exercise some responsibility and ensure that their claims for fitness gear are supported by sound science.”
My first reaction to the Vibram suit was irritation. (We can't possibly need a court to intervene in the barefoot running debate, can we?) My second reaction is that the suit could be good news, and Vibram might actually lose.