Opinion on Vibram Five Fingers Lawsuit

If you have not heard yet, Vibram USA Inc. has settled a class action lawsuit to pay back consumers who bought their FiveFingers footwear after March 2009 for claiming false health benefits.  The premise for the suit is that the shoemaker claimed wearing the shoes could strengthen foot muscles and serve as an injury prevention strategy.  Vibram USA did not have scientific evidence to directly support their claims.  The $3.75 million set aside for consumers to claim as a refund will be available in the near future.

Marketing is what companies do to attract consumers to buy a product, so would I expect anything less from Vibram? No. Is the $3.75million a big deal to them? I don’t know, but it was probably worth the cost of making the deceptive claims.

My question: At what point do consumers start to understand the quick fix for injury is a myth? If you honestly believed a wholesale change to running “barefoot” would prevent injury, I’m sorry…Go get your money.

The truth is, the marketing claims were not necessarily 100% wrong, but neither were they totally accurate.  Deceiving? Sure.  Vibram’s issue is making claims based upon anecdotal evidence and applying it a large group of people.  Wake up! They are not the only company or individual’s doing this.

I personally used FiveFingers during the winter of 2008 to run “barefoot” on frosted field turf as I recovered from an Achilles injury.  Did it help me?  Probably, but not in isolation. I consulted with a physical therapist and coach, chose proper nutrition, cross trained, progressively returned to running, and worked on my running technique and proprioception.  Did I buy another pair?  Yes, FiveFingers were really comfortable to wear on field turf when it was cold out.

Would I recommend FiveFingers to a client?  It depends.

Footwear is not a magic bullet.  Strengthening, injury prevention, and rehabilitation is rarely attributed to a product, new exercise, or stretching technique.  It is multifactorial, and it is depends on the individual.

Don’t be duped next time.

 

No, I will not be asking for a refund.