It’s inevitable that as soon as news broke about Vibram’s agreement to settle a legal dispute centered around the claims they made about their Fivefinger shoes and running, a friend sent me an article about it.
Soon after I started running (in 2010) I started hearing about “barefoot running” and these shoes. I decided that it was worth a try – everything I read seemed to make sense, and as I hadn’t been running particularly long and wasn’t running particularly far on each run I thought it was worth a try. I knew I would have to start slowly and I did. I don’t recall specifically following one set of instructions on how to make the transition – there was so much information out there – I just knew I had to take it slow.
It wasn’t necessarily an easy adjustment – I started with only a tenth of a mile and increased gradually from there, within the first couple of weeks something didn’t feel right, so I stopped for a while, and then started all over again from the beginning. In other words, I listened to what my body was telling me was right and wrong.
Ultimately it worked well for me. Within a few months I ran a 5k in them – faster than my previous 5k, and with less aches in my legs afterwards. I’ve moved away from the Fivefingers simply because there are so many options out there now – I found that they didn’t suit me particularly well on the longer runs I was starting to do because they rubbed in places that caused minor blisters.
The other change I had to make early on was to stop wearing my regular shoes at all – within a very small space of time I started to find having a heel uncomfortable – this was possible at the time thanks to Vivobarefoot.
Now about that lawsuit…
From what I can tell amongst the runners I know at least, people get injured for all sorts of reasons. People will try out different shoes and maybe they work for them, maybe they don’t. If they don’t, the people I know move on to try a different shoe, or perhaps back to what they used before. What I haven’t seen them do is sue the manufacturer because they claimed their shoes were better than others (isn’t that what companies do to promote their products?).
You could argue that Vibram should have known better than to make claims when they had no study to back it up, but surely the whole point was that if you start using muscles you haven’t used before because of the type of shoes you were using previously then those muscles are going to get stronger. Should they take the blame if someone pushed themselves beyond what their body was capable of and got injured?
Maybe the fact they settled will hurt them, and in turn the whole minimalist running movement. I’m hoping it doesn’t – I’m hoping there are still enough people out there who it works for to keep all these options open to those of us who can never go back.
This is one of the articles about the settlement that seems to be a little more “balanced” in it’s opinion of the shoes – People who bought these Vibram FiveFinger shoes may be entitled to a refund – but it does still come out a bit on the negative side despite acknowledging that “Does Vibram being caught flat-footed mean there’s no merit to barefoot running? Absolutely not.”. However, it also implies that Vibram, by settling, has agreed their claims are false, which ignores the fact that companies often settle this sort of dispute because it’s simply a lot, lot cheaper to do so.
The question now is whether or not I should make a claim under the settlement when the time comes? My initial reaction is “of course not” but, if I don’t, the money gets distributed anyway – if I claim some of it I could at least rush out and buy more minimalist shoes with the money keeping it “in the family” as it were. What would you do?