Vibram 5 fingers running shoe settlement; was the problem the product, the clams, the lawyers, or a combination of all of the above?
This past week, Vibram, the company that gave us the 5 fingers running shoe settled their lawsuit. They made a lot of money selling us on the idea of a minimalist running experience and why it is superior to running in a regular running shoe.
One size does not fit all, and for some, the Vibram concept worked well, as many of those runners believed they had fewer injuries, stronger legs, and a great experience after running in what was essentially a foot glove with a protective bottom. True barefoot runners (yes, they run barefoot) believe we should all run barefoot and this is the way we were supposed to walk and run. The idea came from a book “Born To Run” which helped begin the barefoot or minimalist craze. You can read more details about the lawsuit and the settlement here.
What many found out is that this concept either did not work for them or created other problems for them or in some cases, worked well.
Vibram’s claims were perhaps overreaching marketing fluff, but for some, they did quite nicely in these shoes. A few years ago, they were seen all over many high schools and colleges since they looked cool. Over time, the other makers of running shoes came out with their own concept of minimalist which offered different heel heights, and different levels of shoe stiffness or ground feel but in a more standard and lighter shoe.
I did a three-part study on these shoes since I wore them and a pair of minimalist dress shoes to see the effect. You can see the report here
Now that many of the Vibram shoes are no longer favorable, as the fad faded, does this company need to be sued? If you purchased a pair of shoes that looked great and after three weeks, did not work for you, do you have a right to sue the company? Of course, this is an ethical question especially since some people actually did benefit from this style of running. If you purchased a regular running shoe and it caused problems, do you have a right to sue the company?
The problem is that since one size does not fit all, and we do not have recognized reliable criteria to figure out who would do best in what type of shoe, buying any type of running shoe is merely hit or miss. Sure, using a treadmill in the store and being able to see how one hits the ground can help you buy the right shoe for you, but still after a bunch of miles, you may or may not want that shoe again depending on how your body reacts to the way the shoe helps or hampers your running.
The idea of this type of shoe becoming lawsuit fodder is ridiculous and the lawsuit is clearly designed to enrich the lawyers who developed the class, with some minimal benefit to the public that was supposedly harmed by their claims. If the product was so bad, how is it that on Amazon, they consistently got 4 or 5 stars? (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004DSO4P2/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=1535523722&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B00E4UXAAE&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=17BG0HHSDBC2HSR0SCB6)
If you are a runner, and these shoes work best for you, my advice is to stay with them. If they caused more problems, my suggestion is to find a product that works for you. As far as the lawyers go, I think our legal system needs a reboot.
What do you think? As always, I value your opinion.