What the Vibram Lawsuit Says About Us

I think we can agree that the five-finger running shoe craze has seen its peak. In fact, the surge in popularity of the sock-like footwear slowed right into a class action lawsuit against the brand recently.
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I think we can agree that the five-finger running shoe craze has seen its peak. In fact, the surge in popularity of the sock-like footwear slowed right into a class action lawsuit against the brand recently.

I think we can agree that the five-finger running shoe craze has seen its peak. In fact, the surge in popularity of the sock-like footwear slowed right into a class action lawsuit against the brand recently.

A disgruntled customer filed the original lawsuit in Massachusetts because the shoe company advertised that the shoes could reduce running injuries and strengthen the foot. That wasn’t her experience, so she filed the lawsuit.

This type of logic is seen, in my opinion, all throughout the worlds of fitness and nutrition. Consumers want to hold everyone accountable but themselves. Frankly, the type of logic that views the healthy outcomes of barefoot or minimalist running shoes as strictly causation from a style of shoe rather than the runner wearing them is troubling. Surely, advertisers must be ethical and forthright in their campaigns, but are we really living in a world in which I can sue my shoe company because my running gait sucks?

Barefoot Running

Is that what Vibram claimed in their advertising campaigns? Are they paying north of $3 million in this settlement because they claimed to have a shoe that would provide injury-less running and stronger feet without the participation of the runner wearing them? In fact, the correlation between forefoot/midfoot strikers, barefoot-esque running applications and less injury is real, but maybe that’s more indicative of what the runners are doing than the shoes.

Anyone?

I remember reading a big New York Times article that stealthily observed runners hitting the streets in Vibrams and other minimalist shoes heel-striking after all. Call the fitness police! These shoes don’t work. Or perhaps it takes participation from the runner to have a better running experience. I can get a Derek Jeter baseball glove because it’s better than the non-MLB model, but I’d be a fool to think it’d give me hands like Jeter’s.

Believe me, I’m as big of a five-finger shoe hater as any. They are silly and look ridiculous. But we as a population are continually claiming that we’re only interested in the facts, the results, the rules and the three-easy-steps to all things health and fitness simply so we can put specific accurate blame when things don’t work out for us. And we want it now! Except we often aren’t ever really willing to be responsible for these outcomes ourselves.

This is the very idea hidden in the question, “Is that Paleo?” You’re missing the point. A sweet potato is a sweet potato and minimalist shoes are just that: minimalist shoes. At the end of the day, you’ll need to take responsibility for how each of them will impact you. Or I guess you can just sue if things don’t go your way.

Logan Gelbrich @functionalcoach
Founder – Original Nutritionals & Deuce Gym