These glove-like shoes seem like a nifty idea, but numerous buyers are complaining because makers of the product, Vibram USA, made allegedly false claims in their advertising concerning them. FiveFingers shoes ads told customers that the shoes “would reduce foot injuries and strengthen the foot muscles,” but the naysayers pointed out that the company had no scientific basis for the claim. Many of them joined in a class-action lawsuit because of this.
Although Vibram USA maintains they have done nothing wrong, they have agreed to pay 3.75 million dollars into an escrow which will be distributed to people with valid and completed complaints about the shoes. Any leftover monies will be donated to the American Heart Association to help with research on the benefits of running.
But in the aftermath of this heavy blow, perhaps many people are overlooking a few facts about Vibram USA and their commitment to high-quality products. Back in 1935, founder Vitale Bramani invented the first rubber soles for mountain climbing shoes, revolutionizing that design. Now, nearly 80 years later, the company is still known around the world as the undisputed leader in soling technology. Their relentless commitment and innovation led to the concept of FiveFingers when they asked themselves, what are the benefits of bare feet?
Marco Bramani, the founder’s grandson, helped develop the first barefoot shoes and showed the concept to CEO Tony Post. The president of Vibram USA had once been a collegiate runner, and he became a firm believer in the benefits of what they dubbed “natural running”. He discovered that FiveFingers were the unique solution to the knee pain and soreness he experienced when running.
The FiveFingers shoe provides a more natural forefoot strike during running, but also allows the foot to move and work in a completely natural way, while at the same time providing grip and protection over a variety of surfaces. The company copy currently suggests that “wearing FiveFingers for fitness training, running, water sports or just for fun will make your feet stronger and healthier–naturally” and that “running in Vibram FiveFingers requires a significant increase in lower leg and foot strength. A gradual transition is critical to avoid overuse injuries.” Here is a link to their FAQ.
As this page states, barefoot running is a completely different action to the heel-strike running conventional running shoes encourage. It’s a well-known fact that primitive man didn’t run in shoes, and some scientists have agreed barefoot running has both positive and negative effects on the skeletal structure.
Below is a clip of a person who was transitioning from shoes to running barefoot, so you can examine the difference yourself:
Running in conventional shoes statistically causes the foot to hit heel first, with much greater force, while barefoot running causes a lighter, front-footed strike that has less impact on the leg bones. However, the problem is that if you’ve been using shoes all this time, you can’t simply just take them off and run in a proper barefoot form.
The body must retrain, and often it is during this transitional timeframe when new injuries are likely to occur. The most likely scenario is, the bones will become less prone to fracture, but the muscles and tendons are more likely to suffer strains and sprains.
So, just as Vibram’s FAQ page clearly stated, the best advice is to start slowly, maybe even running completely barefoot until your body has adapted to the barefoot running style, before graduating to a FiveFingers shoe.