Vibram USA Inc. is defending its FiveFingers footwear.
After a Florida woman filed a class-action lawsuit against the firm two weeks ago alleging deceptive advertising by claiming certain health benefits related to the “rewards of running barefoot,” Vibram said Wednesday it is “surprised by this action.”
A statement released by the company said, “As with any innovation that ignores conventional thinking, there will always be some skepticism. Vibram’s FiveFingers footwear is no different. For years now, consumers, amateur athletes and even professional athletes using FiveFingers have chosen to share their success stories with the broader community. As a result, Vibram has seen an enthusiastic and health-conscious fan base grow and flourish.”
The firm added it “intends to fully defend the lawsuit.” However, executives were unable to comment further as they were traveling to and from Europe on Wednesday.
Vibram introduced FiveFingers, a patented glove-styled shoe that kicked off the current minimalist running trend, in 2006.
According to court documents, Valerie Bezdek, the plaintiff, takes issue with Vibram’s claim that “scientific research” shows that their FiveFingers shoes, which range from about $80 to $125 per pair, will provide “all the health benefits of barefoot running” to anyone who runs in them and that traditional running shoes do not provide such health benefits.
Having paid $104.90 for a pair of Vibram Bikila shoes on April 13, 2011, Bezdek alleges that Vibram’s claims are deceptive because FiveFingers are not proven to provide any of the health benefits beyond what conventional running shoes provide.
The suit suggests that running in FiveFingers may in fact “increase injury risk as compared to running in conventional running shoes, and even when compared to running barefoot.”
Bezdek is making claims for damages, attorneys’ fees and costs on behalf of “thousands, [although] the precise number of class members is unknown.”