Barefoot running shoe maker withdraws health claims

Footwear and rubber company loses court case regarding the shoe’s supposed health benefits

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Runners who believe that five-toed “barefoot-style” running shoes are definitely beneficial for their health could be in for a surprise – and a refund.

Rubber and shoe firm Vibram, who marketed the shoes as a more natural alternative to conventional sporting foowear which could prevent common injuries, have now said that the product’s possible benefits have not been scientifically proven.

Vibram’s website describes the five-toed footwear as being able to “actually help make the foot healthier,” and to “strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs, improve range of motion and increase sensory reception important to balance and agility.”

“The benefits of running barefoot have long been supported by scientific research,” the company adds. “And there is ample evidence that training without shoes allows you to run faster and farther with fewer injuries.”

Yet although the shoes have attracted a broad fan base - with celebrities such as Kate Hudson, Danny Glover and Scarlett Johansson wearing them - Vibram has been forced to withdraw the claims of a health benefits after a law suit brought against them in 2012 in Massachusetts.

The company has been forced to pay up a $3.7m settlement, although continues to deny wrongdoing.

“Vibram will not make ... any claims that FiveFingers footwear are effective in strengthening muscles or preventing injury unless that representation is true, non-misleading and is supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence,” the federal settlement says, as quoted by UK daily The Telegraph.

While settlement agreement is subject to approval by the court, individuals who submit claims could receive $20 to $50 in compensation.

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