After the numerous false advertising class action suits that have been filed over so-called “toning shoes,” the next round of footwear cases is targeting “barefoot” running shoes.
A national class action was filed against Vibram FiveFingers, regarding its claims that its barefoot shoes replicate the benefits of barefoot running, improve posture, and prevent injury because they are designed to fit the foot like a glove.
According to the complaint, “there is no scientific evidence which substantiates or proves that wearing FiveFingers will provide [the advertised benefits] in any greater degree than with conventional running shoes.” The plaintiffs further allege that runners must change their running styles to run with a forefoot strike pattern, a long and painful process that can lead to serious injuries.
The suit seeks restitution, disgorgement, a corrective advertising campaign, and a halt to the advertising campaign.
A similar suit was filed against Adidas over its adiPURE “barefoot” shoes in New York federal court in June.
The shoe giant launched the line to take advantage of the increasing popularity of Vibram’s product, the plaintiffs claim, but Adidas “has not conducted any comprehensive medical or scientific studies to examine the health benefits claims it makes regarding adiPURE.”
Named plaintiff Joseph Rocco alleges that he suffered compound fractures in his foot after running in the Adidas shoes for a few months by having to adopt an altered running style needed in “barefoot” shoes.
Rocco declined to pursue compensation for his personal injuries, but instead seeks statutory damages of $200 per plaintiff for violations of Oregon state law, as well as reimbursement and injunctive relief, pursuant to Pennsylvania’s consumer protection act.
To read the complaint in Safavi v. Vibram, click here.
To read the complaint in Rocco v. Adidas, click here.
Why it matters: “Barefoot” shoes appear to be the next target for consumer class action attorneys after the wave of litigation filed against “toning” shoes last year. In those cases, plaintiffs said that claims of toning shoes providing extra strength to leg and buttock muscles made by defendants like New Balance, Skechers, and Target were unsupported by scientific evidence. Reebok also entered into a $25 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over similar charges. Advertisers must be prepared to substantiate claims and ensure that studies used in support produce accurate, verifiable results.