Right now, barefoot running is quite possibly the hottest topic in the running community. All you need to do is look at the runners around the San Diego area to see the increase and interest in minimalist running. These shoes are everywhere! Almost every shoe manufacturer has a “minimalist,” “natural” or “barefoot” running shoe now and the phenomenon has sparked debate over whether running barefoot, in minimalist shoes or in conventional running shoes is best for your body and performance.
Varying opinions aside, Vibram FiveFingers, the most popular barefoot running products, now finds itself in hot water. Five Massachusetts law firms have filed a class-action suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts alleging Vibram “used deceptive statements about the health benefits of barefoot running.” According to the lawsuit, “given that Defendants’ advertising and marketing equates barefoot running with running in FiveFingers, Defendants uniform deceptive statements about barefoot running are also deceptive statements about Five Fingers.” The lawsuit also attests that:
- health benefits claims Vibram FiveFingers has used to promote the shoes are deceptive.
- FiveFingers may increase injury risk as compared to running in conventional running shoes.
- and, even when compared to running barefoot, there are no well-designed scientific studies that support FiveFingers claims.
The claims rest largely on the study published by the American Council on Exercise in September of last year. The study analyzed the impact of running in Vibram FiveFingers and found that running in the “conventional heel-to-toe running style and [the Vibram FiveFinger] shoes have led to high-impact injuries for many runners.” The study does note that when runners change their running form to the more efficient fore-foot strike running style, there were less running injuries when running in the Vibram FiveFingers.
The lawsuit acknowledges that Vibram FiveFingers recommends first-time users to ease into running in their shoes, pointing users to their website for tips and training advice. The lawsuit also notes that Vibram FiveFingers acknowledges that transitioning to their shoes may take some runners up to year. While it seems these items would favor Vibram, it is these items that will most likely be used to support the lawsuit’s claims of deceptive advertising.
For more information about the lawsuit, check out this Footwear Business Update report.