If you are one of the thousands of people who purchased Vibram USA's ridiculous FiveFingers shoes, you might be entitled to a refund. The company settled a class action lawsuit to the tune of $3.75 million this week and that money will go back to customers.
The case was brought by Valerie Bezdek in Massachusetts, who claimed Vibram was deceiving their customers by advertising FiveFinger shoes as beneficial to foot muscles and helpful in reducing foot injuries, even though they did not have any scientific research backing up these claims. Also, they make you look really silly, but that was not cited in the legal documents.
The settlement required two forms of relief: a refund, and for Vibram to stop making claims in their advertising and product marketing that FiveFingers could help build muscle or reduce injury.
In the event that you had a temporary lapse of judgement and bought these heinous toe shoes, you can get your money back (just not your dignity.) As part of the settlement, Vibram must create a website (www.fivefingerssettlement.com, which is not set up yet) where class members (that's anyone who bought toe shoes) can learn about the settlement and receive the forms they will need to file. Vibram is also required to purchase banner ads, in places such as runnersworld.com and Facebook.com, in order to have 300,000,000 impressions.
In order to qualify for a refund, you had to have purchased FiveFingers between March 21, 2009, and whatever date you are either notified of the settlement notice or class notice (whichever is earlier.) The maximum refund will be $94 per pair, though the settlement agreement does make note that in similar settlements, class members received refunds of $20 to $50 per pair of shoes.
You can submit claim forms for up to two pairs without a receipt or proof of purchase. For claims beyond two pairs, you will need to show proof of purchase. Keep in mind that while a receipt isn't required to file a claim form, Vibram can request a receipt to verify your purchase after the claim has been filed to help prevent against fraudulent claims. So, best case scenario: you get the full purchase price back and get to stop wearing ugly, medically useless shoes.
If the full $3.75 million settlement is not distributed to class members (this can happen when not everyone who qualifies files for a refund), the rest of the money will be donated to the American Heart Association, to a program researching the health benefits of running.
Even though they settled the lawsuit, Vibram USA is still denying they did anything wrong: “Vibram expressly denied and continues to deny any wrongdoing alleged in the Actions, and neither admits nor concedes any actual or potential fault, wrongdoing or liability.”
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.