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Vibram Pay Out Millions of Dollars For "False Claims"


Posted by Cags R under Running on 12 May 2014 at 11:00 PM

Vibram's iconic Five Finger shoes (commonly known as VFFs) have come under attack for making unsubstantiated health claims - but how has running with VFFs affected your training?

Vibram Five Finger Shoes

It's a fine line that marketing departments must teeter upon - but as more that one shoe company has experienced in recent years (the Sketchers Shape-Ups or the Reebok Easy Tone are other examples), people really don't like it if you make claims about your shoes which aren't backed up with undeniable scientific fact.

Vibram AdvertThe difference between these earlier cases seems to resound in the message of the footwear - while the Shape-Ups and Easy Tones were aimed to enhance with less effort: Reebok ads claimed that wearing EasyTone shoes leads to 28 percent more strength and tone in the buttock muscles and 11 percent more strength and tone in hamstring and calf muscles than regular walking shoes, The Associated Press reports. The FTC alleged this was false.
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Vibram's claims that they strengthened muscles and prevented injury by encouraging the forefoot stiking running style which we would have run with until the concept of sport-specific shoes sprung up in the last century. So why are they having to pay out?

“The gist [...] is that Vibram illegally obtained an economic windfall from [customers] because it was only by making false health claims that Vibram induced consumers to buy FiveFingers shoes, and to pay more for them than they would have otherwise,” Harvard Law School professor, John C. P. Goldberg, told Runner’s World at the time of the original filing.

The case has been settled with Vibram paying out $3.75 million - which will be distributed to consumers who have valid claims against the company and may claim back some of the $94 the shoes originally cost. Until Vibram can scientifically prove that their shoes can strengthen muscles or prevent injury, they will not be able to make these claims when marketing their products. So we thought we'd ask:

  • What has been your experience of running with Vibram FiveFingers?

  • Have you experienced more or less injuries than with other running shoes?

  • Have you noticed improvements in your muscular strength since training with them?

I switched to Vibrams a year and a half ago,  and it took a while before i could run any distance in them.  once you switch you will never go back to a coventional running shoe.  I now log 55-60 miles running in them every week with no problems or injuries.

Vibrams do take a few months to get used to, but once your calves get used to them they are great.  without any cushioning they force you to adapt a very light footed strike.  I run twice a day,  averaging  6-8 miles total mostly on pavement and have not sustained any injuries in the year i have been running with them. 

Mark GI bought my first set on five fingers at a fitness expo. I was walking around in runners for about 45 minutes with my usual back pain. I thought what the heck I will buy a pair. I put them on and walked around in them for another 3 hours with no back pain. I have sport and casual barefoot shoes and absolutely love them. I dont know what they say about them but for me they work. I cant wear normal runners as I get back pain and also get numb legs if I run - which is related to the bad back (broke it in 1991).
Mark G

Stefani J

I found that barefoot running has really helped strengthen all those little muscles in my feet and ankle and helped with any pains I felt in my ankles and sides of my legs. I felt very inspired last year when I read born to run! That is a great book!!!

When I was looking into geting some barefoot/miminalist shoes the guy selling shoes was 1. trying to talk me out of it because of the danagers (ie: blisters and time it takes to get used to) and 2. coaching me to decrease my distance and slowly intergrate the shoes into my training.

Mind you do your research and find out if the shoes and this style of running is right for you. I wanted to try it out to see if it would help with my shin splints and other aches and pains from just bad shoes, and see if it would help improve my natural running, and yes it has for all of it.

Stefani J

MeghanI tried a pair on once at a local retailer just to assuage my curiosity about them.  I thought they felt fine, although the little sleeves around my toes felt funny, & I did need to take my toe rings off before putting them on.

For me the deal-breaker was the price.  They started at around $80, which was more than I thought they were worth. I'm just going to stay with going barefoot in my actual bare feet.  For anyone who knows me that shouldn't be a surprise.
Meghan L

Bob K
I love mine and have a few pair.  I don't run in them but do use them at the gym, hike and wear them just to walk around in.  I know it doesn't helps the "Scientific" claim, but my feet feel better.  And I have been lees prone to Plantars, and rolled ankles when running in my Nike Flyknit free shoes.
Bob K

Sophie GI am a huge fan of barefoot running, When the time came to get back into running after snapping my achilles I tried for 8 months to get back into training and just suffered injury after injury. I went to see a barefoot running specialist who made some slight alterations to my running stlye and gave me a ton of foot and ankle strenghrning exercises to do and a programme to make the change over, I did all he told me and then went back for a follow up to check I was doing everything correctly - it was all very detailed and suprisingly cheap, it's been 2 months now and I am running injury free the longest I have gone. I use the vibrams and I will never look back, now I'm looking into getting the offroad version. 
Sophie G

So, a fair few Tribesports members have used Vibrams and love them - it's not scientific, it's not enough to make back the millions that Vibram have paid out in their settlement but it's the Tribesports ethos to listen to real sportspeople when it comes to kit recommendations. The level of education which Vibram put behind the transitioning process shows that they, as a company, believe in their claims that their product will improve your running. 

Blogger James Fallows rounds up the argument very well:

"If you're a heel-strike runner, as many people who learned in the era of fatly padded shoes are destined to be, these are not the footwear for you. But for people who run the way these shoes are designed for, or can learn, they're neither bullshit nor heinous but very good." 

James Fallows Those Vibram Shoe Refunds? I'm not claiming one

If you're a minimalist runner, join your fellow Tribe members in the Barefoot Runners Tribe and check out all the Barefoot Challenges that Tribesports has to offer!

  • Encourage

    encouraged this.



    I read this with interest yesterday in my local newspaper, I am not sure that I ever felt that vibram promised running nirvana in five fingers? I do think its horses for courses and if you get on with these minimal style shoes then great, however there are plenty of other options (including the other end of the spectrum in the Hoka one one shoes) and the main thing is that people run, or exercise more in general, and whatever makes that more likely to happen is all good with me!


    I'm a VFF convert. I started using them in 2012 and did a half marathon in them that year. In the beginning I only used them for my warm ups before switching to "normal" runners for the main part of my run. If you don't take time building up the distance you will get hurt. Also, if you heel strike in them you will get hurt. I've blogged about my own success in minimalist running on a few different sites, (incl Tribesports), and I don't think I will stop running in them or other zero or near to zero drop runners. These days I mainly use zero drop runners, but switch to 4mm heel for trail running (for a sturdy under plate, not for padding) and I occasionally use "normal" runners for a marathon etc. Note: VFFs are great if used correctly - they are not a silver bullet to fix everyone...

    encouraged this.


    Am at the other end of the spectrum. Am a big fan of Hokas and use them exclusively on ultras and after 50 miles in them my feet have never had any issues. I also run injury free and am a heel striker so it's horses for courses

    encouraged this.


    I love my VFFs ... My third pair arrived today... Never going back :)

    Kylee F and Eoin O encouraged this.


    I have a pair, but I don't run in them much anymore for a couple of reasons. 1) They don't really fit. My feet are really small, and mine are a size too big (finding them in my size is virtually impossible). 2) I got very bad blisters on the bottom of my toes when I did run in them that have never happened with normal running shoes. If I was able to build up proper calouses, I might be able to run in them, but for now I'll stick with my Brooks Ghosts.

    Cags R encouraged this.


    @kyleef I think they do cater towards a wider foot too - I had to spend about 5 minutes persuading my little toe to go into it's assigned toe-shoe!

    Kylee F encouraged this.


    @cags I think you're right. They don't fit everyone like they are supposed to.


    @kyleef - but I supposed if people want totally perfect footwear, you're gonna have to pay top dollar and get them custom made (who has time for that!!)

    Kylee F encouraged this.


    @cags no kidding! I think running is the most expensive hobby I've ever had. Haha. It's completely worth it though!


    If there's a weakness in the body it's going to crop up no matter what you wear on your feet, legs, head - whatever, we all need to put the common sense hat on now and again in this 'sue if it doesn't work world' it's all about the quick fix, forget that and put the hard work in!!

    Simon O and William B encouraged this.

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