Vibrams FiveFingers Sued over Health Claims

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    Apr 05, 2012 12:58 PM GMT
    This was in the monthly newsletter for the organisation I'm a member of (Sports Medicine Australia); thought it might be of interest to the runners here.

    http://www.sportsonesource.com/news/spor/spor_article.asp?section=8&Prod=1&id=42190

    "A group of five law firms has filed a class-action suit against Vibram USA Inc and Vibram FiveFingers LLC in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts alleging the company used deceptive statements about the health benefits of barefoot running.

    “Given that Defendan’ts advertising and marketing equates barefoot running with running in FiveFingers, Defendants; uniform deceptive statements about barefoot running are also deceptive statements about Five Fingers,” alleges the suit.

    The lawsuit appears to be the first of its kind filed in the district against Vibram FiveFingers, which was the single hottest outdoor specialty product in the United States from 2007 through 2010. The lawsuit says sales of the shoes have grown an average of 300 percent a year for the last five years and approached $70 million in 2011. The breakout sales led Merrell to partner with Vibram, an Italian company specializing in sole design and manufacturing, to launch its own minimalist footwear line in 2011.

    The lawsuit asserts that; 1) health benefits claims Vibram FiveFingers has used to promote the shoes are deceptive; 2) that FiveFingers may increase injury risk as compared to running in conventional running shoes, and even when compared to running barefoot; 3) that there are no well-designed scientific studies that support FiveFingers claims.

    The lawsuit quotes extensively from an article published in the September, 2011 issue of ACE CertifiedNews discussing results of a study conducted by conducted by the American Council on Exercise of the impact of running in Vibram FiveFingers. That article notes that conventional heel-to-toe running style and shoes have led to high-impact injuries for many runners.

    The lawsuit also acknowledges Vibram FiveFingers hangtags advise first-time users to ease into running in the shoes and to visit their website for related natural running and training tips. It also notes that Vibram acknowledges that transitioning to running in its shoes might take some runners more than a year.

    Filed March 21 on behalf of Florida resident Valerie Bezdek, the lawsuit purports to represent a class of more than 100 people with claims exceeding $5 million. Fve law firms are listed as counsel for the plaintiff, including lead counsel Glen DeValerio and Nathaniel L. Orenstein of Boston."
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    Apr 05, 2012 1:25 PM GMT
    The did have a vogue here for a while, haven't seen any for almost a year now. I thought they were a silly idea to begin with, like clown feet, couldn't see using them much on hard surfaces even to walk, much less running. Some guys told me they mainly used them for around the house and in grassy yards.

    For a more natural walking feel when I was going to summer camp, where we boys seldom walked on hard surface, all grass and trails, I had self-sole moccasins, like American Indians wore. As an adult I also wore them when doing my own camping in the woods. So I understand the concept of going without a stiff sole, but I wondered about their suitability for running in built-up areas.
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    Apr 05, 2012 1:49 PM GMT
    I wear them and love them.

    They are no more or less healthy than any other shoes I own

    It's not like they said "OUR SHOES CURE CANCER!!!" or anything.

    This is what happens when you are an idiot.
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    Apr 05, 2012 2:22 PM GMT
    coming back to this topic later!
  • thinnfit

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    Apr 05, 2012 3:14 PM GMT
    I think the lawsuit is frivolous at best. I have seen many folks using these and love them. The one complaint I have heard is that it did take them a while to break in, as stated above. The only things I can think of that some may mistake for "injury" is MTSS ( medial tibial stress syndrome) aka "shin splints" and possible calf pain from being used more than usual, possible sprains of the ankle from the lack of stability of the shoe (these would stem from lack of ankle strength, and possible pain in the knees from the new workout the kinetic chain is getting.

    As for using just the ACE article, they should have also looked into ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, International Federation of Sports Medicine, and other resources. I don't want to put ACE down, but their scope is the general public, not devoted in any one group.

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    Apr 05, 2012 3:38 PM GMT
    dash_8 said
    The lawsuit asserts that; 1) health benefits claims Vibram FiveFingers has used to promote the shoes are deceptive; 2) that FiveFingers may increase injury risk as compared to running in conventional running shoes, and even when compared to running barefoot; 3) that there are no well-designed scientific studies that support FiveFingers claims.


    I'm sorry, but if the prosecutors are going to hold the "well-designed scientific study" standard to Vibram, then I sure as hell hope they have their own "well-designed scientific study" to back up point #2.
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    Apr 05, 2012 4:19 PM GMT
    Law firms should not be allowed to bring suit. The is a corruption of the system like Disney changing the copyright laws to keep Mickey from falling into the public domain. The legal system that made this country an economical giant is going to shut us down going down this path.
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    Apr 05, 2012 4:47 PM GMT
    Art_Deco saidThe did have a vogue here for a while, haven't seen any for almost a year now. I thought they were a silly idea to begin with, like clown feet, couldn't see using them much on hard surfaces even to walk, much less running. Some guys told me they mainly used them for around the house and in grassy yards.

    For a more natural walking feel when I was going to summer camp, where we boys seldom walked on hard surface, all grass and trails, I had self-sole moccasins, like American Indians wore. As an adult I also wore them when doing my own camping in the woods. So I understand the concept of going without a stiff sole, but I wondered about their suitability for running in built-up areas.



    I can't imagine anyone not being at home in their own feet. I love my vibrams and have run many races including four half marathons in mine. And those were on a mix of trail and concrete, the surface really didn't make a difference. But at the same time I walked in them a lot for about a month before I ever logged mile one running in them, just like they advised.

    If people want to sue a shoe company then why isn't anyone suing Nike or Adidas for false claims that they'll excel at sports or run faster and jump higher.

    I have a ten k in two days and I'll be running my fifth half marathon this may in Brooklyn and you better believe I'll be rocking my vibrams.
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    Apr 05, 2012 4:59 PM GMT
    Um. They Nike and Adidas don't explicitly make those claims. However, Reebook DID get sued over the rocker bottom 'toning' ones.
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    Apr 05, 2012 5:00 PM GMT
    Haaretz saidI wear them and love them.

    They are no more or less healthy than any other shoes I own

    It's not like they said "OUR SHOES CURE CANCER!!!" or anything.

    This is what happens when you are an idiot.

    +1
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    Apr 05, 2012 5:03 PM GMT
    bryanc_74 saidUm. They Nike and Adidas don't explicitly make those claims. However, Reebook DID get sued over the rocker bottom 'toning' ones.


    Didn't mean anyone actually should. But the implication is definitely there with celebrity endorsements and footage of people who are known top athletes. Look at the new reebok-crossfit add, it may not say it explicitly, but the idea is that those shoes are designed for the 'sport of fitness.'
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    Apr 05, 2012 5:07 PM GMT
    I have always thought that getting rid of training shoes for running makes about as much sense as getting rid of tyres for driving.

    hummer-h3-wooden-wheels-3.jpg
  • swimbikerun

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    Apr 05, 2012 5:10 PM GMT
    It's a successful company with deep pockets so spin the wheel and maybe get a nice payout!
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    Apr 05, 2012 5:14 PM GMT
    Ex_Mil8 saidI have always thought that getting rid of training shoes for running makes about as much sense as getting rid of tyres for driving.

    hummer-h3-wooden-wheels-3.jpg


    You may want to read up on the history of 'training' shoes. "born to run" is an excellent book on the anthropology/physiology of running and the barefoot movement. Also the magazine Mental Floss had a great article on the invention of the modern running shoe and how the rubber literally came about from an accident in the process. And that happened within the last hundred years. So not quite as old or as tried and true as the wheel. More people should get back to basics. Millions of years of evolution should have it at least partly right one would think.
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    Apr 05, 2012 5:25 PM GMT
    ^^Yes, "Born To Run" is certainly enlightening.

    I love my Vibrams. I actually felt zero pain (well, some break-in pain) that I normally felt when running in conventional running shoes. And I felt no soreness the next day.

    I, too, think the lawsuit if frivolous. I know so many people that use the Vibram FF, with, so far, zero complaints. You need to buy them from the right resource, or read the information on the Vibram website. When I bought mine, the owner of the store made sure to give me specific tips on how I should run and what it should feel like (he told me to run backwards to focus on running on the balls of my feet as that should be the technique in the FF/barefoot). He told me about the break-in period and really did an extensive job in ensuring I had the right fit.
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    Apr 05, 2012 5:46 PM GMT
    wallcrawler83 saidMore people should get back to basics. Millions of years of evolution should have it at least partly right one would think.

    Except the human foot didn't evolve to run on concrete, asphalt, and wooden indoor tracks, among other unnatural surfaces. Aside from some rocky areas, evolving humans mostly walked & ran on more compliant soil and forest litter.

    You do know that horses must be shod because their hoofs don't do well on paved roads? And the horse is one of Nature's premier running machines.

    Nature built us slowly for the conditions we once faced. We ourselves moved the clock ahead with our own brain power, and our bodies haven't caught up yet with the new environment we created for ourselves.
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    Apr 05, 2012 6:00 PM GMT
    Art_Deco said
    Except the human foot didn't evolve to run on concrete, asphalt, and wooden indoor tracks, among other unnatural surfaces. Aside from some rocky areas, evolving humans mostly walked & ran on more compliant soil and forest litter.


    Natural surfaces are as varied and treacherous as the surfaces we have created ourselves. Whether you're running on sand, concrete, soil, or a wooden track, the biomechanics of running generally remain the same. That the human foot didn't evolve specifically to run on human-created surfaces doesn't necessarily mean that the biomechanics we evolved with aren't already well-adapted, to some degree, to those surfaces. It may very well be mother nature's way of adhering to "don't fix what's not broken".
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    Apr 05, 2012 6:13 PM GMT
    That really pisses me off. I hope Vibram smashes this into dust.

    This sounds to me like a group of people who don't know shit about what they're doing, got hurt, and saw it as an opportunity to make a buck. I could go on about this but I'm gonna spare everybody the long winded rant.

    icon_rolleyes.gif
  • phillisoden

    Posts: 1

    Apr 30, 2012 5:08 AM GMT
    Vibram five fingers are one of the best running products that I have bought in my lifetime. I really enjoy myself more than running completely barefoot.

    Barefoot