In the past week I have been bombarded with either email links or Facebook tags regarding the recent settlement between Vibram USA and a Class Action Law Suit led by a woman who said the company deceived customers by claiming, without scientific evidence, that its FiveFingers shoe could strengthen foot muscles and decrease injuries. Vibrams USA will be paying out $3.75 million to anyone who bought a pair of FiveFinger shoes after March 29th, 2009.
“Aren’t these your shoes?”
“What do you think?”
“Are you going to keep running in them?”
Theses questions, and many more, have been asked of me along with the tags and emails of that story.
I will admit, I bought into the increased foot muscle strength and the decreases injuries mantra hook, line and sinker, and I am very disappointed in both Vibrams USA (for not having the scientific data to back their claims up) and myself (for not doing a little more research).
That being said, let me make it clear, I will NOT be asking Vibram USA for my $94 that I can rightfully claim.
Because Vibrams Fivefinger Shoes were very much an integral part of getting me INTO running AND taking my running to the next level. Without my KSOs, Bikilas, Treks and Seeyas, I don’t know if I would have achieved 8 marathons in less than two years. Did I wear them for every marathon? No. But they were an important part of my weekly training, and I believe they DID help keep my feet injury free.
Where’s my proof? I have none except my own experience. During a stretch a couple of years ago, after finding BQ success mixing my runs between VFFs and the original Saucony Kinvara, I purchased the 3rd iteration of the Kinvara. During about a 6 month stretch, I ran almost exclusively in them, despite never truly liking them. I’m not sure why I had moved away from the VFFs other than maybe VFFs were becoming popular as an alternative and I foolishly didn’t want to be “mainsteam alternative”.
Foolish, I know.
I eventually stopped using the Kinvaras because both of my feet were hit with plantar fasciitis…anybody who has experienced it will tell you just how painful it is. When I mentioned my pain on Facebook, a friend said I needed to put my VFFs (Vibram Five Fingers) on, go out for a run and burn that PF out of my foot. This went contrary to everything I had read on the Interwebs about PF.
Roll frozen water bottles under them.
Support, support, support!
Being the occasional contrarian (see above) that I am, I decided to heed my buddy’s advice, but instead of putting on my VFF’s, I went completely barefoot. 3 miles later, not only were the calluses on my heels now pedicured for free, but my PF was gone…yes, gone. After having suffered for nearly 10 days heeding the common wisdom, barefoot running had cured me of my PF.
Is that scientific proof? Absolutely not, and I want people to be perfectly clear that this was something that worked for me and for my feet. I am not you and my feet are not yours.
Do I think Vibrams USA made a mistake in claiming what they did in the manner in which they claimed it?
Do I think Vibrams USA is completely at fault for what this woman and many other may or may not have suffered through due to their use of VFFs?
No. Friggin’. Way.
Even I, a mildly experienced runner at the time of my first purchase of the VFFs had absolutely no clue as to what I was doing. I went out and ran 3 miles in them the first day I got them and proceeded to be literally hobbled for the next week because I nearly snapped my Achilles’ Tendon. There are so many people in this country who, looking for a quick fix, will buy a product without thinking whether it is good for them and then go straight to using them without following instructions. That was me the first time I put them on…and I even had a friend who had adamantly told me to run no more than a 1/4 mile in them the first time.
Did I listen? No.
Typical of my fellow citizens, I went all out and nearly injured myself in a serious manner.
After that first run, my VFFs went into the closet, presumably never to come out again.
But then came the book Born to Run and I thought, maybe I didn’t do things right the first time (which I hadn’t).
This time I did a little research on transitioning into them. I read blog posts of runners who enjoyed some success in them and figured out how to make the slow transition myself.
I would go on to train exclusively and run 3 marathons in VFFs running a 3:54 (Manchester City), a 3:32 (Boston) and a 3:30 (Providence) all in the course of about 6 months.
So what’s my point? If you take nothing else from this post or from the Class Action Lawsuit that Vibams USA settled, let it be this – Barefoot and barefoot style running works…for some. Barefoot and barefoot style running doesn’t work…for some. There are a thousands of people who rediscovered running due to the FiveFinger Shoe because they were forced into better running form.
That health benefit, to the individual themselves and to our society as a whole, is priceless.
I will not be asking for my $94.