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Vibram barefoot running controversy heats up

By on May 21, 2014
Vibram five fingers

The fall-out around the recent Vibram USA lawsuit continues to dominate the running world. The lawsuit alleged that the barefoot brand had made false and unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of its footwear.

  • This was a lawsuit about an advertising campaign, not a style of running shoes, writes Peter Vigneron of Outside Online. It’s an unfortunate affair, he argues, not least as minimalist shoes are in his view better than normal shoes.
  • The jury’s still out, notes Matt McCarthy. Some recent evidence indicates that barefoot-style footwear may be associated with a reduction in knee injuries. But that may be at the expense of greater stress on the Achilles tendon.
  • As the Vibram affair blew up, attention swiftly turned to Chris McDougall of Born To Run (Wikipedia | Amazon) fame. McDougall noted, in an interview with Jon Gugala, that he was hoping for some kind of popular response when he wrote the book. But he wasn’t anticipating was minimalist and barefoot running. In fact, the chapter on running shoe brands’ claims about injury prevention almost didn’t make the final cut, as the quote below illustrates.

That chapter on running shoes? I was really on the fence as to whether to keep it in. I was on the verge of chopping it out, because it seemed to me to be the driest part of the book.

Background to the Vibram barefoot running lawsuit

Two weeks ago news emerged that Vibram USA had agreed to settle a lawsuit over the health benefits of its running shoes. The lawsuit alleged that the had company had made false and unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of footwear like the glove-like FiveFingers model. As reported by Matt McCue in Runner’s World, Vibram settled to put the matter to rest and avoid any additional legal expenses and made the following statement in its court brief:

Vibram expressly denied and continues to deny any wrongdoing alleged in the Actions, and neither admits nor concedes any actual or potential fault, wrongdoing or liability.

More on the Vibram barefoot running affair

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