Blog

Yikes! Vibram in Hot Water April 11 2012

 

A few weeks ago reports surfaced that Vibram, the company that sells the FiverFinger footwear and champions minimalist footwear, is facing a federal class action lawsuit in Massachusetts. The plaintiff is arguing that the company has greatly exaggerated the benefits of its products and says there is no proof that running in a pair of FiveFingers will improve posture, promote spine alignment, strengthen muscles, or reduce injury.

So, what do you guys think? Any barefoot/minimalist footwear runners out there who would care to come to Vibram's defense? Anyone side with the plaintiff? Though I definitely bust out my running shoes for longer runs and haven't quite made the transition to 100% barefoot or minimal footwear running, I've been integrating short barefoot runs on grass, tracks, and beaches for years and have found it to be pleasant...perhaps even beneficial. Or, at least, I think it's beneficial. I don't really know. All I know is that I've been running since the age of 13 and (knock on wood) have never had any serious running related injuries. And that's the crux of the argument isn't it? We don't really know.

There are plenty of people who will testify that barefoot running has been an integral part of warding off or eliminating nagging and painful running-related injuries like Plantar fasciitis, but on the other hand, there isn't any real scientific evidence to back up the claims that barefoot running is better for the body or that it prevents injuries. Vibram saw a niche and went for it (clearly there are a lot of people out there who find that running in minimalist footwear works for them and appreciate having the FiveFinger option), but perhaps they got a little overzealous in trying to promote the benefits of their product without any heavyweight scientific data to back them up?

The plaintiff in this case, a woman from Florida, is arguing that running in Vibram's footwear may increase injury as compared with running in conventional shoes or barefoot. The lawsuit accuses Vibram of propagating a "false and misleading advertising campaign" that has allowed them to "reap millions of dollars of profit at the expense of the consumers they have misled."

It will be interesting to see how this plays out although, I have to ask, was it really necessary to take the barefoot running debate to court? What do you think? Legitimate lawsuit or another case of the McDonald's coffee was too hot?