Vibrams Settlement: People who bought these Vibrams FiveFinger shoes may be entitled to a refund
Last week, the Vibrams Settlement story blew up on my Facebook page. I was immediately asked for my opinion on the Vibrams settlement by several different people. Here are my thoughts.
People are making a big of a deal out of this Vibrams settlement, but in my opinion it is a total non story. It’s pretty simple. Vibram made a claim they couldn’t back up with scientific research. The basics of the claim was that simply wearing Vibrams Five Finger minimalist shoes would strengthen the muscles of your foot and decrease injuries. The fact that Vibrams settled has nothing to do with whether the claim is true or not. And since Vibrams hasn’t admitted any guilt or wrong-doing, we really don’t know why they decided to settle. It’s possible that Vibrams felt it was cheaper to settle than to fight this lawsuit further.
The reality of barefoot shoes is this:
If your structure is solid and you have NO MOVEMENT DYSFUNCTION, then training barefoot/minimalist will make your feet stronger than training in highly structured shoes. If you are a loyal reader of my blog, you will know I consider this kind of a no brainer. If the intrinsic musculature of the foot is allowed to function properly, it will get stronger with training. Just like with any other muscle. And if you brace a joint (which is what an arch support does), the muscles of that joint will grow weaker. So with perfect structure and good bio-mechanical movement, Vibrams claim is true. However…
If you do have dysfunction in your structure and you train with this dysfunction, you highly increase your risk of pain and injury. Your shoes, any shoes from five fingers to Hokas, will not fix this problem. They may help hide the pain for awhile, but eventually the dysfunction will rule movement.
The reality is that If you have dysfunction in your structure and in your bio-mechanics, then It does not matter what is on your feet (minus a few obvious shoe choices such as high heels and flip flops, but that is another story altogether). It’s not the shoes that are the problem, it’s the dysfunction in the structure and mechanics that needs to be addressed. Add barefoot/minimalist shoes to a poor structure and poor mechanics, and you’re going to exacerbate problems and actually increase your likelihood of injury.
So if you have dysfunction in your structure and biomechanics, then the Vibram settlement claim is not only false, but also potentially harmful. Training minimalist/barefoot, will actually increase your likelihood of injury. To truly get the benefit out of moving barefoot/minimalist, you have to treat your underlying structural and bio-mechanical issues first.
My professional/experiential advice:
I do not recommend making a drastic transition to barefoot/minimalist shoes especially if you have movement dysfunction. Again, your number one priority needs to be addressing your structure and mechanics. Here is one of my favorite posts on the effects of attempting to train through dysfunction.
I do recommend a conservatively slow transition into barefoot/minimalist shoes for people with solid structural mechanics. I look for a shoe that does not control your natural movement, but allows natural movement to take place. Here are a couple of my favorite shoes that I recommend regularly Luna Sandals and Soft Star Shoes (affiliate links).
If you’re injured, don’t look for barefoot/minimalist shoes to fix your problems. There are no magic fixes. It takes work and you’ll need the help of a movement therapist. This is the type of help that I offer.