At this point you have probably heard about the Vibram 5 Fingers lawsuit that has come to fruition with a $375 million class action suit.
Now, let’s back up a second – the results you get from minimal footwear have less to do with the “shoes” and everything to do with how you use them. Even when you continually buy the same shoe brand, you wouldn’t go out and run 20 miles in the brand new pair, right? Very similar to suing Slim Fast because you can’t lose weight – yet, they claim you should be able to with their shakes. But, maybe you’re the one not using the product properly? Have you thought of it that way?
So, the claim is that Vibram is mis-representing in the marketing of their product:
Well, I’ll let you decide;
“FiveFingers shoes can deliver various health benefits to runners who use them, including, for example, reduced risk of foot injury and strengthened foot and leg muscles”
Now, these perceived benefitcs cannot be measured and *varies* by individual. But, that’s the case with most marketing claims. And notice how it says *can*? So, why Vibram!? Why Now?
The Plaintiffs side stated that these benefits were not the case for most and that new research no longer supported barefoot running to be as effective as once believed. (How many minimalist shoes do you still see on our elites? Yeah, well, enough said!)
In fact the Plaintiffs made the case that many purchased the shoes without realizing they would have to change their gait in order to receive the perceived benefits. And, Vibram charged a premium price without educating customers on how to use the barefoot running shoe properly to maximize benefits and avoid injury. C’mon, if you’re not an educated consumer it’s probably your own darn fault.
Every person has different running habits. Each person has a different gait. Every foot is different. All this goes without saying. But, was Vibram for you? Did you like the barefoot running shoe? Personally I never joined the band-wagon. Nike Free was as minimalist as I went. And, you know what? That was a SLOW transition to strengthen my foot, ankle and calf muscles. So, I never went all the way 😉 Plus, the “toe shoes” look a little foolish (C’mon, they do!) But, if you’re going to make a switch to any new shoe – educate yourself and take it slow for your body to adapt. Minimalist or not.
Who remembers the popular “strength shoes” of the 90’s? I don’t remember any lawsuit because high school basketball players didn’t achieve the promised vertical? And, let’s not forget about Sketchers Shape Ups? (Ok, they had to pay $40 million but that doesn’t hold water)
I think the key takeaway from the Vibram lawsuit is that our understanding of form, technique, etc. has come a long ways in the runners’ community. Back in the beginning of Nike and the days of Pre there was no science with running shoes. Now, shoes are designed for wide feet, high arches, pronation, over-pronation and a plethora of other individualized customization. Vibram shoes are no different. They are a specialty shoe built for runners who have (or can smartly train to achieve) the technique and muscle strength to run bare foot. If you dared to go bare I would love to hear about it 😉