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Vibram settles FiveFingers lawsuit: ‘Toe shoe’ owners eligible for refund

toeshoes

If you’re among the more than 70,000 people who bought Vibram’s popular FiveFingers “toe shoes,” you could get some of your money back.

The company has agreed to pay $3.75 million to settle a group of lawsuits accusing Vibram of false advertising, specifically its claims that the shoes could strengthen foot muscles while reducing running injuries.
According to court documents, the company admits no wrongdoing but will pay up to $94 per pair purchased after March 21, 2009. Most payments, however, are estimated at $20 to $50 per pair.

Vibram has agreed to set up a website – www.fivefingerssettlement.com – which will provide details on how to file a claim. According to the settlement, proof of purchase will not be needed for fewer than two pairs of shoes.

Vibram did not respond to requests for comment.

Spurred by a groundswell in minimalist and barefoot running in recent years, FiveFingers grew particularly popular among those in the military after special-operations troops and CrossFitters became early adopters.

Proponents say the shoes help athletes run with a more natural stride, hitting the ground more toward the fore- and mid-sole of the foot, rather than the heel striking that predominated with the trend of more cushioned soles.

The science, however, has been mixed.

“Barefoot running has been touted as improving strength and balance, while promoting a more natural running style. However, risks of barefoot running include a lack of protection, which may lead to injuries such as puncture wounds, and increased stress on the lower extremities,” reads a May 9 statement by the American Podiatric Medical Association.

In a December 2013 study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers concluded that minimalist shoes could actually increase the chance of injury among recreational runners.

Among 99 runners preparing for a 10K race over a 12-week period, those wearing FiveFingers and another minimalist brand experienced more injuries than those wearing more typical running shoes.

“Running in minimalist footwear appears to increase the likelihood of experiencing an injury, with (FiveFinger) designs specifically increasing pain at the shin and calf,” researchers concluded.

Despite all the controversy, 70 percent of those who’ve purchased FiveFingers will continue to wear them according to a recent DealNews poll of more than 1,000 Vibram owners.

Jon R. Anderson is a staff writer for OFFduty. Contact him at jona@militarytimes.com.

2 Comments

Mark McHugh

about 6 months ago

As for the research study, choosing a group who are training for a 10k run implies a study group who has already learned to run in classic running shoes (i.e., a heel-striking style). I think that anyone could foresee injuries resulting from habitual “heel strikers” switching directly to unpadded toe shoes during an intensive twelve-week training period. These people would need to retrain their running style before the toe shoes would do them any good. For such a group, I’d recommend slowly transitioning their style through the use of Strength training shoes [StrengthSystems.com]. Once their style is retrained, I’d then compare the newly retrained “toe runners” to a traditional group of “heel strikers” in traditional running shoes. That's the only fair way to compare the two. I'd then be shocked if the heel strikers didn't have more injuries over the long-term of say five to ten (5-10) years of running. I'm not sure that twelve (12) weeks is an adequate amount of time to evaluate the long-term degradation resulting from a heel-striking running style. It's kind of like saying that no one developed cancer after twelve (12) weeks of smoking.

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Vince

about 6 months ago

Class action law suits only have one goal: To make money for the lawyers filing the suit, period. They do not care about the consumer. Vibram is an easy target as true science is almost non-existant. For every study that shows Finger Finger shoes do what Vibram claims, you'll find another saying the opposite. That's why comsumers should do their own research. You should not trust Vibram's research, nor should you beleive the APMA's study, you should do your own research, especially if it involves spending your hard earned money. I can tell you from my experience is these shoes do work and doctors are not always right. I suffered from shin splints for 8 years; 8 years of non-stop pain in both legs resulting in repeated stress fractures. During those 8 years I saw 9 diffirents doctors who all said the same thing; RICE and take antiinflammitories. Not one of those morons thought, "huh, this hasn't worked in 8 years, so maybe RICE isn't the answer". So I decided to do my own research which led me to Five Finger shoes. Despite doctors telling me they would not help me, they said, Five Fingers would make my problems worse, kind of like one of the studies in this aricle said. The truth was, after doing my own research on how to properly use Five Fingers, transition into using them, and the importance of stretching, especially the calf and achilles area when beginning use, I decided to try them. Five Finger shoes not only allowed me to run without pain, they eventually did what no doctor could do: They completely cured my problems. They literally changed my life. I now run further and faster than I ever could, even prior to getting shin splints. A few years ago I could barely pass my run during my PT test, now I ace it. In other words I did my own scientific study, even inadvertantly followed the Scientific Method. I doubt the APMA and the Journal of Sports Medicine did that. I bet they formed their conclusion before they even did their "studies". I form my opinion not baised of my "personal bias" of using Five Finger shoes, but from their own statement of " risks of barefoot running include a lack of protection, which may lead to injuries such as puncture wounds". That is called junk science. Did they really need a study to show that "barefoot" running makes you more vulnerable to puncture wounds? The risk is in the name; it's called "barefoot running". The whole idea of "barefoot running" is to give up the protections of traditional shoes in order to build up your foot, ankle, and leg strength. So I'll call thier research crap because I'm sure they's call my personal research a fluke.

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