Rebecca S. (Kennewick, Wa) asked us what Ascension Multisport thought about the current class action lawsuit that Vibram agreed to pertaining to their Vibram FiveFingers “toe shoes.” For those unfamiliar with the lawsuit, you may read more about it at the Huffington Post by clicking HERE (disclaimer: read the disclaimer at the bottom of the article, gotta love the media...). In a nutshell, a suit was filed in 2012 claiming that Vibram made false claims not backed by science about strengthening the feet, improving range of motion, more natural gait, amongst others. While I am not familiar with Vibrams specific marketing and phrasing/claims, I am unable to say whether they made these claims or the accuracy of their claims. I am familiar with the shoes, and did look into barefoot/minimalist movement extensively in graduate school.
Starting at the beginning, science has not backed these because it is new, and science takes time to catch up. Barefoot research is coming out currently, and there is science on both sides of the story (as does any topic). I am not going to dig too deep into the science here as I have already done this once relatively recently (2012) and nothing earth shattering has come out to my knowledge since. If you would like to read my literature review that was done while in graduate school during biomechanics, click HERE. I start by looking at the history of shoes, some anatomy of the lower extremities, and adaptations throughout time, and role of manufacturers.
Personally, I love my Vibram FiveFinger shoes, and despite the high cost (roughly $100), I will NOT be submitting a claim to receive my $95 back for either pair that I own. Why is this? Because I firmly believe in minimalist shoes for many reasons and uses. I also will contradict myself and say I personally do not run in mine (I wear Brooks Launch currently). Why is this do you say? How can someone preach one thing and not do it himself? Easily. I love my Vibrams because they are the most comfortable shoes I own. They are my everyday shoe. My work shoes which have to be a specific brand are also lightweight, flexible, with a low heal to toe drop, hitting the main principles of minimalist.
My biggest complaint, Do Vibrams smell? Yup, what shoes don’t?! Buying some Injinji toe socks cleared that up. If that is my biggest complaint, and I am happy with the product in all regards would it be moral in my opinion to submit a claim? No, which is why I am not. My opinion of this lawsuit is it was brought on by those who did not educate themselves on a product, and jumped on a bandwagon like so many others do with the latest rage all too often before spending time to research, read reviews, and then got hurt. Crossfit, anyone? (Ooh, Maybe ill write my thoughts on crossfit next!). Could also be just that our culture is so litigation happy that anyone who sees an opportunity to make a quick buck, does so. This is one of my biggest pet peeves of our culture and society. Me taking my stand against society, is to not submit a claim on my two pairs.
Barefoot shoes are not for everyone. Someone with low or collapsing arches or super high arches do not have proper biomechanical function in their foot. Our feet are engineering marvels as I talked about in my linked article. Think of it as if it was your car engine. If you loosen a few bolts it will not run properly and may even break down, right? I am the former option of arch, with Fred Flinstone super wide flat feet, hence me not running in my Vibrams. Hiking, walking, shopping, working around the house, etc are all great uses for my Vibrams. I recommend to anyone who will listen that they buy a pair. When I heard about this lawsuit, I was disappointed in society and promised myself to take a personal stand, and know many who feel the same as I do.
For those who are able to wear a shoe like Vibram, I feel there are instances that are better than others. Cement is pretty hard, most of us are not used to running in shoes such as Vibrams, and there is a lengthy adjustment period. In my next article I will outline what I feel is the proper way to use Vibrams, as well as other options of footwear such as shoes that ARE padded and keep the very low heal to toe drop such as Altra.
Click HERE for references used in my literature review.