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FiveFingers Maker Vibram Will Pay Millions To Suckers Who Bought Its Shoes

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Buy into fitness hype rather than common sense? Lucky for you, Vibram crossed the line and overhyped!


Yeah, this is too good not to quote:

The favorite toe-shoe of vegan restaurant servers and 55-year-old men with ponytails has settled a class action lawsuit brought against it by what sounds like every person who ever wore its foot-condoms.

Runner's World Newswire's Matt McCue reports that though Vibram "expressly [denies] and continues to deny any wrongdoing alleged in the Actions, and neither admits nor concedes any actual or potential fault, wrongdoing or liability," the company has agreed to pay a lot of money.

The initial claim, filed in 2012, accuses Vibram of deceiving consumers by saying that its shoes could "reduce foot injuries and strengthen foot muscles." Unfortunately, Vibram appears to have pulled this out of thin air, really hoping it was true.

It is not true.

Science takes time, and since the advent of Christopher McDougall's best-selling Born to Run (a book based mainly on anecdote that sparked the minimalist footwear revolution), science has discovered that barefoot running can really fuck you up.

"This study showed that increases in bone marrow edema [the precursor to a stress fracture] are more common in subjects who were transitioning to the [Vibram FiveFingers]," concluded this 2013 study.

I wonder how I can get my money back from these jerks.

I have a pair, but I have only run in them three times, and I have no interest in running in them. I walk in them to help improve my running in Newtons; also a fore foot strike designed shoe, but with cushioning.

I use these to go swimming in hard to enter areas. :)

Me too, but I like Fila Skele-toes.

"The Fila Skele-toes are not actually five-toed shoes because the Skele-toes design gives the smallest two toes one pocket for ease of entry (the "EZ-Slide"). While the Skele-toes' "four" toe design is an obvious difference to Vibram Five Fingers, the Fila Skele-toes are also different than VFFs in other more subtle ways — all toe separation aside. Actually, Fila is marketing the Skele-toes more as a lifestyle shoe than a fitness shoe."

And hey, did that turn out to be a smart marketing move, way back in 2011.

A very smart marketing move -- because as Dov and Sergey indicate, this IS about lifestyle.

Four toes does seem more practical. I've had a lot of challenges getting that fifth toe to separate.

The trailing comments are interesting. TLDR; the elite Kenyan and Etheopian runners grow up running barefoot and train that way. Switching from padded to no padding is a shock for most people. Full disclosure, I've run a fair amount in 5 fingers, exclusively on trails, up to 18 miles.Found them super comfy, no foot issues. I also grew up running barefoot and they feel pretty natural to me.I think this is a classic YMMV.

So is the lesson that however you grow up, that's what you should do?

I think it's more on the lines of "change takes time, recognize that you might not understand all the challenges on day 1". 5Fingers come with instructions to take it slow learning to run in them. Basically get your body used to the change from "normal" shoes to this nominal covering. I had to learn to look at the ground differently because small rocks - which hadn't bothered me in shoes - were a big deal. I was surprised about the muscles in my feet hurting after my first 10K trail run. So I took it a little easier, didn't try to rush. It's like any other new exercise I try (or even small tweaks to existing exercises) - the load on the body changes,  new weaknesses are exposed, new places to learn and be patient.

That makes it no different than other forms of weight training and conditioning.

You have to work your way up, slowly and steadily.

So, I am going to have to show up with a slightly contrarian opinion here. I am a actually a big fan of the Five Fingers, and I'm never too quick to align myself with whatever the latest greatest finding in "science" is these days. It oscillates far too fast. One day egg yolks are the devil. The next, they're a miracle food. One day saturated fats are terrible. Then, they're actually not so bad. I think exercise and nutrition are ironically more religious than scientific more times than not.

With my biases now disclosed, I'm fairly athletic individual (particularly I am an avid CrossFitter and into shorter triathlons these days) and a few years ago as I got more into triathlon, I naturally increased the distances on my runs. To make a long story short, pain in my knee started to emerge about 6 miles into longer runs (where previously, I seldom would run more than 2-3 miles at a time), and after a lot of churn, I learned that my running form pretty much sucked.

How did I fix it? I started running with Five Fingers. What it did for me was that it forced my body to correct my stride so that instead of smashing my heel into the ground and then touching my toes (traditional running shoes with slightly elevated heels totally exacerbated my own natural tendencies), I instead started landing more flatfooted (actually the outer part of the front of the foot lands first to be followed with a fairly delicate touch of the heel and rest of the foot), and once I fully acclimated into the Five Fingers over a couple of months, my stride naturally corrected itself.

Now, a couple of years later, I run in Five Fingers occasionally but also use shoes like the NB Minimus which is effectively just a Vibram sole but without the individual toes in it. 

Could I have corrected my stride by transitioning straight into the Minimum vice having the Five Fingers as an intermediate step? I don't know, but probably I could. However, I still am going to give credit where credit is due, and in this one, I feel that I owe Five Fingers a tremendous thanks for helping me to overcome a situation that I was actually considering to be something that might require a surgical procedure to have fixed.

All in all, I am still a fan of running longer distances in the Five Fingers. I don't think I'll ever go fully barefoot because I can't stand the idea of my feet becoming that dirty and calloused (and possibly cut on rocks or shards of glass), but I'm glad that Five Fingers allow me to approximate that experience in a way that I think is really primal and helpful in increasing my own athletic potential.

I've come to understand that Five Fingers are great for some people, as your sharing attests.

Where Vibram got into trouble was in making unsubstantiated claims for all people.

But it's stories like yours that made Five Fingers popular in the first place.

Clearly they do good for some people or they would not have lasted this long!

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