To settle allegations that it lied about the scientific research on the purported benefits of barefoot-style running in promotions for its glove-like, five-toed running shoes, Vibram USA Inc. has agreed to establish a settlement fund of $3.75 million and will not oppose counsel’s request for nearly $1 million in fees. Bezdek v. Vibram USA Inc., No. 12-10513 (U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Mass., motion for preliminary settlement approval filed April 30, 2014). If approved, the agreement will resolve three class actions filed in June, July and August 2012.
Without admitting any liability, the company will also refrain from making claims about FiveFingers footwear—i.e., effective in strengthening muscles or preventing injury—unless the “representation is true, non-misleading and is supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.” Under the agreement, any residual funds will be distributed to the American Heart Association “with specific earmark relating to research regarding health benefits associated with running or exercise or substantially similar research, or such other beneficiary as the parties and the Court shall agree at the time of the Final Judgment and Final Order.”