Vibram settles fivefingers lawsuit

4:15 p.m. on May 9, 2014 (EDT)
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you know, getting lawyers involved in anything fun is likely to mess things up.  Vibram has set aside money to pay people who claim their minimalist shoes.  I think the lawsuit claims people overpaid for minimalist shoes and that the benefits of the barefoot shoes are uncertain.  Vibram has set aside money to pay people who file claims.  

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2014/05/08/say-it-aint-so-vibram-say-it-aint-so/?tid=pm_pop

I have worn 3 pair of these since they were introduced.  one of them, i used so often and burned the soles so flat that I purchased another pair, same kind.  I didn't start wearing them because I thought they would reduce injuries or strengthen muscles; my first pair was a test run for the review corps, and I liked them.  still do.  because they force you to alter your stride, one tends to use a slightly different group of muscles than in traditional walking or running shoes - that has been my experience from a few years and at least a couple hundred miles of walking in them.  does that result in less injuries? i don't know.  but more generally, cross-training and using a broader range of muscles does, i think, have good long-term benefits on that front.  they sure don't protect your feet as well as more traditional footwear.   

so, how many people bought these things because they actually thought they would reduce injuries? or strengthen muscles? more likely, some people tried them, weren't that excited about them, and will now cash in via 'claims' in this class action. 

6:42 p.m. on May 9, 2014 (EDT)
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I'm not following some of your sentences, so I'm not sure about your perspective and argument.  If they're getting nailed for false advertising, I'm fine with that.  Same for misleading food claims and listing practices.  Same for anything that claims, or lists, one thing, and the truth is another.  It shouldn't be a consumer's job to interpret the spirit of the information.  Sketchers (or was it Reebok?) got into some legal problems with making claims about the health benefits of their footwear.  There are a lot of people who believe what they're told.  Why shouldn't they?  Because we live in a predatory world?  Because we should approach every little detail in our daily lives with a sliver of cynicism?  I'm okay with business getting held to the fire.  I'm sorry litigation is one of the few weights to balance the scales, but that's the other part of the reality of capitalism run amok.  If Vibram is bending the truth to sell product, then seller be damned.  Don't play a game if you don't want to be gamed.

8:47 a.m. on May 10, 2014 (EDT)
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you captured the gist of it.  the class action, at its core, was a false advertising suit claiming that the company had misled consumers about the benefits of running barefoot - hence the benefits of footwear that attempts to mimic running barefoot.  it had survived initial motions to dismiss.

in this case, if you figure the average claimant will receive a payment of $50, the settlement would cover 75,000 claims (it appears that people who were 'suckered' into buying multiple pair can make a claim for two pair, without receipts, and receive a payment of up to $94) - and anyone who purchased these shoes since a date in 2009 can file a claim.

compare that with the annual revenue generated by sales of this footwear.  I saw a credible report that annual sales of these shoes hit $100 million within 5 years of their 2006 launch.  which means vibram has probably sold well in excess of a million pair of these things since 2009, perhaps approaching or exceeding 2 million pair.  

putting these two groups of figures together, the size of the settlement and its terms suggest that the parties concluded roughly 5% of affected consumers, those who bought fivefinger shoes since 2009, may file claims.  the flip side? 95% of the people who purchased these shoes won't hear about the lawsuit and settlement, don't care enough to file a claim, or are satisfied customers.  please don't take any of these figures as gospel - this is pure back-of-the-envelope reasoning from someone who has a little more than 20 years of experience with the legal system.  

I am not focused on whether the lawsuit was valid or whether the claims had merit.  i don't know enough about the facts to comment on that.  generally, when a company settles and puts real money on the table, the claims had some merit.  or the costs of litigation, including the potential impact on sales, outweighed the interest in defending the lawsuit.  on a more  practical level, i have never viewed running barefoot (or nearly barefoot) on pavement to be sound thinking.  and i have only run in these things to test them, virtually all the mileage i have put on them is walking and hiking and being in or around water.  my premise, other than informing people, was that while lawsuits like this attract a lot of attention, their overall impact is often quite small.  vibram will pay back a little money, relatively speaking, and change its advertising to omit some of the claimed health benefits.  most people bought these shoes because they became popular, i think, not to improve their health.      

6:57 p.m. on May 12, 2014 (EDT)
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Well I just wear them because I like them, I never put too much stock in manufacturer claims, although you should be able to.

11:03 a.m. on May 13, 2014 (EDT)
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I had a pair of the original five finger (thought they should be called five toe) slip on ones a few years ago when they first came out. I wore mine walking ,as creek crossers and even while riding my bicycle. They were very comfortable once I got used to the toes sections. I wished they made them (then) a little thicker on the soles and I should have thought about it when I bought them and got the oes with the strap across the top as they came off too easily when in water and muddy conditions.

I currently don't have them anymore and have gone back to Teva's.

August 1, 2014
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