Thursday, March 29, 2012

Barefoot Runners Revolt!

Okay, the barefoot runners didn't necessarily revolt, but they did file a class action lawsuit against Vibram, the brand that makes the FiveFingers line of footwear that is supposed to allow for a barefoot running form while protecting the soles of your feet from sharp objects and such. It's not often that my legal career and my love of running intersect, so indulge me as I delve into this "news" story. The suit, which purports to represent over 100 people, was filed last week in the Federal District Court for Massachusetts.

As I read the complaint (which you can find here), the plaintiffs are making 2 main allegations:

(1) Although Vibram's website and promotional material clearly states that it may take time for users to adjust their form and therefor they should transition slowly to the use of FiveFingers, some people will never adjust their form and Vibram has failed to publicize this fact. Basically, this is a failure to warn claim.

(2) Vibram made claims about the health benefits of its FiveFingers as compared to traditional running shoes but the claims are unsupported by scientific studies. This is a pretty standard false advertising claim.

So what do the plaintiffs want from Vibram? First, they want the company to stop making health claims about FiveFingers. Second, they want Vibram to "disgorge," or return, the profits it made off the consumers that it supposedly duped.

I'm a little rusty on false advertising law and I certainly haven't gone over this complaint with a fine tooth comb, but it seems like the case will come down to the quality of the studies that Vibram relied on in touting the benefits of its shoes and barefooting running in general.

I've never really bought the whole barefoot running hype. I read Born to Run and actually really enjoyed it, but it didn't make me want to abandon my shoes. That said, if I were set on going "barefoot" on my runs in the urban jungle, I would definitely want at least something between my feet and city streets. It'll be really interesting to see how this case proceeds given the still enormous popularity of FiveFingers (I saw at least four people in them on my run this morning). So far this story hasn't really hit the mainstream media, but if this case gets past summary judgment, I'm sure it'll make headlines sooner or later.
Today's Run: 6.5 miles at 7:49 pace.

No comments:

Post a Comment