Vibram’s $3.75 Million FiveFingers Toe Jam: What’s it Mean for Barefoot, Running?

It’s week-old news now and unless you’ve been living in a cave (or on vacation … wink!), you know that Vibram has agreed to pay out $3.75 Million to settle a class action lawsuit brought two years ago (Has it been that long?) over some of the marketin…

It’s week-old news now and unless you’ve been living in a cave (or on vacation … wink!), you know that Vibram has agreed to pay out $3.75 Million to settle a class action lawsuit brought agains the company two years ago (Has it been that long?) over some of the marketing claims they were making around the purported health benefits of barefoot running/training. In essence, Vibram made some claims via various marketing channels as to the health benefits of their five-toed footwear. As is somewhat common knowledge in the minimalist/barefoot running community, there’s not a ton of science in support of the benefits of any footwear—minimalist or heavily-cushioned—that’s one of the lessons Chris McDougall shared in Born to Run. As such, when push came to shove and a lawsuit went after Vibram for associating health benefits with their footwear, well, you get a lawsuit. Tack on at least one recent study regarding increased bone edema associated with transitioning to minimalist footwear and you get a tricky legal situation for Vibram. That’s my layperson’s, non-lawyerly take on the matter. In this case, Vibram didn’t ultimately go to court but opted to settle the case. Thus, they didn’t officially admit any wrongdoing, officially. That they are set to pay out $3.75 million as part of the settlement — payable to the lawyers in fees and to customers who seek refunds — is the sign that Vibram must feel there’s a risk they’d lose the case were it to go to court. So that’s that. The story has gotten airtime all over the internet thanks to the sensationalism and juicy story that is using Vibram’s settlement as a launchpad to poison the well on barefoot/minimalist footwear, generally, and toe shoes, specifically. Haters gonna hate. What’s new? This is the Internet.
Underlying image a screencap from some interesting marketing from Vibram.
Underlying image a screencap from some interesting marketing from Vibram.

But what does the settlement really mean, if anything?

Outside of the purview of marketing lingo and the FTC, I’m not sure it means much. You might recall that Skechers had to fork up $40 million in their Shape-Ups FTC case. So for whatever reason, Vibram is only paying out less than 10% in this settlement, which could be interpreted in a lot of ways:
  • Were Skechers Shape-Ups sold to more people than FiveFingers?
  • Were the claims made by Vibram viewed as less dubious to those made by Skechers?
  • The payout amount represents a probabilistic value of the lawsuit succeeding in court.
  • Something else?
It doesn’t matter much to those of us who maintain that FiveFingers are a great product — so long as the financial impact on Vibram isn’t so severe that they’ll stop producing them. To date, VFFs are still one of the most barefoot-like shoes around made. I’d be seriously disappointed were they to go the way of the dodo. Bottom line: all those saying this settlement means something about the merits (or lack thereof) of minimalist footwear are being short-sighted. Just as much as marketing-speak isn’t science, resolutions of lawsuits don’t prove much (See also: burden of proof though that applies to cases that go to court versus those being settled).

What I’ve observed: Taking Individual Responsibility for your Health is the Whole Point.

I feel as though this goes without saying, but when it comes to your own health and the claims of product manufacturers, it’s always “caveat emptor” — “buyer beware.” It’s up to us, as individuals, to determine the validity of claims made about whatever. So when I say “individual responsibility” is the “whole point,” I mean it in a few ways, not the least of which is that I put responsibility in the hands of individuals first. That’s a rule of thumb. It’s a starting point. Yes, there’s a spectrum of how different claims affect whether or not someone is justifiably duped/conned/had/whatever. Individuals are responsible for themselves; it’s a starting point. But there’s more to this idea than the legal merits of claims about products. When it comes to our own bodies, we owe it to ourselves to pay attention. Therein lies perhaps the biggest benefit of minimalist footwear: they dial up the feedback we get from our feet just as much as they dial down the dampening from the soles of shoes. Mind, relative to barefoot, minimalist shoes also change the feedback we get from the ground. They are a compromise. But they also allow you to pay more attention, so relatively speaking, minimalist shoes allow you to pay more attention to your body through the feedback you get from your feet. This quality has made them hugely popular as people have gotten more in touch with the ground, their movement, and their health.

But not everyone is paying attention. Or enough attention. Or closing the feedback loop!

If we are running shod and hurting, something is wrong. If we’re walking barefoot and in constant pain, something isn’t right! The onus of responsibility is on us to pay attention to feedback and respond to it. It’s to iterate on this feedback loop with the goal of improving our health, reducing pain, or getting stronger. But you gotta take the feedback (feetback?), act on it, iterate, and keep on trying. It’s a process. And it’s not without some pain and frustration! So Vibram FiveFingers were never a silver bullet. When it comes to the complex interactions of the human body, what is? Indeed, I remember many in the community lamenting the fact as they saw newcomers to the minimalist world that people would switch to VFFs and instantly go out and try to run miles. TMTS was a common retort to said folks, who likely were very enthusiastic to find how great it was to move around without clunky shoes and allow their feet to feel more on the ground; they got excited as a result, and did too much … too soon. Indeed, the Godfather of Barefoot Running — Barefoot Ken Bob — would cite too much enthusiasm as a major cause for injuries in folks new to barefoot running (source). It bears noting that physiological and neurooplastic change takes time and is intimately personal. In so many ways, switching to barefoot or minimalist movement requires whole body rehabilitation. Minimalist or barefoot training is, in a way, self-managed physical therapy. It’s not flipping a switch. A lot of you know this. I probably preach to the choir here because so many of you have had insanely positive experiences from this self-managed PT. And at least of few of you didn’t have initial success but kept at it, closed the feedback loop, and came out the better for it. Many stories about these experiences have been chronicled on BirthdayShoes. So it is that all the snarky and glib attacks on minimalist shoes that have come out of this settlement are just so much Internet trolling. And if you’re like me, and you still like your toe shoes, well, move along—there’s really nothing to see here. For those of you who had a bad experience with FiveFingers, that’s unfortunate. Kudos for giving something weird and different a shot. And if you’re looking to get your piece of the Class Action pie, you’ll want to head over to and await the day it updates with information as to how you can claim your refund. So there’s my take (finally!). What’s yours? Leave a comment (here) or sound off on the BirthdayShoes Forums (that’s a link to ongoing discussion about this!).

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

46 replies on “Vibram’s $3.75 Million FiveFingers Toe Jam: What’s it Mean for Barefoot, Running?”

It all comes down to a personal preference. If Vibram was making claims about health benefits, and they couldn’t prove them to exist, well then they should retract those statement. I feel 3.75 million is a bit much, but hey, that’s America for you…

I don’t think any other sport shoes company makes any claim to health benefits either. They tend to follow the same script as the tobacco lobby: sell the lifestyle.

Me, I’m exceedingly well pleased with my three pairs, even though I’m still feeling the burn after a good run. And I miss the leather treks, I wish Vibram would come out with a nice full-leather model again, preferably with a clip-on sole on the back for descending mountains with a pack. I now need to bring an extra pair of boots just to get off a mountain…

I’m going to file a claim (I bought tons of Vibrams!) and use the money I get to buy new Vibrams, from Vibram’s web site.

That way it minimizes the effect of this ridiculous settlement.

Your shoes are great. I use them for running, lifting weights, and climbimg. But ( here’s the but) the soles tend to un glues them selves in the first few weeks so I tend to use super glue to hold them in place…thatsbmy onlyccomplaint.. people who use them should give it some time to get use to them. At first they do hurt your feet in the first few months but your feet get used to them and then you’ll feel fine except for the looks from others lol…

Very well put. I actually hadn’t heard about the lawsuit until a couple days ago (I was too busy running around in my Vibrams and loving them).

Fingers crossed that this doesn’t hurt the company. Vibrams are the only shoes I can wear at work eight hours a day without coming home and having to put my feet up. :/

VFF’s saved my back, my legs and my ankles. I’m 66 yrs old, been running since I was 31 (3-5 miles 3-5 days/wk). Increasingly my heals, ankles, legs, knees, hips and back were hurting; I’d buy over-sized shoes to add padded inserts just to cushion the blow (especially the heal).

Then in 2008 I discovered Toe Shoes… listening to my body I dropped to one mile/day moving to a rubber oval track… occasionally going to the infield until my legs were strong enough to support a proper landing.

Then I read the advice realizing I was doing it the right way. It took a year, to get back up to speed/distance and today I wear VFF’s exclusively 12 months/yr. On my toes I’m more stable, all body pain is gong and never have felt healthier.

Thank you VFF for not only saving my running life, but for giving me a more healthy pain-free life over all.

I’m looking for a pair of vibram brown leather laced or slip-ons, size 11.5 I saw in 2013 AD for vibram. Where can I find I already have 4 pair

what’s the suit about?

I for one will -not- be asking for a refund. After almost 10 years of looking for shoes that I can wear, that don’t cause me pain in my knee (I was hit by a drunk driver in my 20’s) I found something that works. And I will continue to buy my Vibrams! (Until it becomes socially acceptable to go in public barefoot)

Filing a claim and using the refund money to buy more Vibram’s still hurts the company, as they are essentially providing you with two free pair.

It would be far better for the company and the Vibram five finger wearing community to dissuade people from filing and instead educate them on the proper transition to avoid injuries.

I wear minimalist footwear exclusively now, and I never began wearing them due to some marketing hype. A coworker began wearing VFFs in 2009 and I found them intriguing. I am not a runner, so I bought a pair for casual wear and slowly began acquiring more and more. I am up to 23 pair of VFF and 11 other branded shoes, for a total of 34 pair of minimalist footwear. I have not had a single injury, and I do feel as though my feet are stronger and I have a better balance. Added bonus, I can actually use my stubby excuses for toes to pick items up.

I have not been sorry that I converted to this style of footwear!

In response to Justin’s post comment regarding the probabilistic outcome of a loss in court, it is really hard to say if that was likely or not. The Sketchers case certainly did lay the ground work for such a thing. I think settling was the right decision for Vibram, as it likely saved them a boatload in legal fees. $3.75 Million in reimbursement, legal fees, etc. with any leftover funds going to a charity I believe, is a drop in the bucket compared to what it could have cost to go to court. I think the company made a strategic move and as Justin also pointed out, admitted no fault. Far less of a black eye for the company than if they had fought it out, lost in court and spent way more money defending themselves, only to be hit with a larger court decided penalty to pay. Vibram took the high road and is taking care of the few customers that didn’t properly transition by providing a refund without requiring proof of purchase. It could have been a lot worse if they had to pay consumers medical bills on top of it.

I started to wear fivefingers shoes in 2012. I had Read on the internet That it was necessary to get use to them. I started slowly. After three months, i started to wear them most of the time. For the past 4 months, i wear them non stop. I had a Road accident on a motorbike. My shin was opened : The part on the leg bone. My fivefingers (I Own Steven pairs), are the only pair of shoes I CAN wear to go to my local store. I cannot walk Very far. I honestly hope That the company Will continue to create new models. I am an hardcore fan from France.

I agree with the point that people need to be responsible for themselves. I’m embarrassed to live in this “I’m a victim” society. For me, my Vibrams have done everything they promised. I have several pairs of them and will NOT be participating in the lawsuit.

I just wish there was a way for those of us who don’t think we were mislead to stand up for the company in an effective way as well.

Some people are too stupid to believe. If you don’t follow the directions on how to use them and transition from old style to minimalist, of course you’ll hurt yourself.

I love my Vibrams, will continue to wear them as much as possible. If people would take responsibility for their own actions and quit wearing them if they are not right for them (after following the directions for transitioning to them), then this world would be a better place for innovation and creativity. Get real and stop looking for a way to ruin it for those who DO love and benefit from these shoes!

Great comment Justin, this has been my view since I first started receiving countless messages about settlement. Thanks again for all you and the crew do with the site.

I agree with Larry and am the same age. I believe that they are great comfortable shoes that have helped me along way. I look forward to more VFF offerings for all aspects of outdoor exercise and leisure activities.

The dilemma I have is to seek some of the settlement money and use it to buy more Five Fingers, or take a moral stand and not request any settlement. I feel using the money to by more VFFs will be more beneficial to Vibram than not taking the settlement money, since my understanding is the money is allocated for the settlement regardless of the number of people that claim against it.

This is funny considering the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) just recently adjusted their guidelines for running shoes with an emphasis on minimal traits. A payout fund settlement for anyone who wants a refund isn’t really an admission of any wrong doing. Personally, I think most of the hype around the “health benefits” of barefoot shoes was from the media and consumer attention given the shoes. Certainly, Vibram promoted them as running/fitness footwear, but the “health craze” aspect of them was largely a consumer driven phenomenon in my opinion. When I was a tech rep for Vibram, I never told people anything about barefoot being healthier. I did talk about the little bit of research that was known about footstrike patterns, impact forces, joint torques etc, but always talked about form rather than shoe. Of course, a barefoot/thin heel shoe lets you have more control over your form, and for me it was more about these shoes being designed to allow your foot to act like a foot (close to one of Vibrams marketing campaigns btw). That didn’t stop the people I met from saying things like, “Oh my friend has a pair of those, they’re better for you to run in right?”

Here’s some highlights of the ACSM’s recommendations:

“There is no right shoe that fits all runners. However, research and injury patterns have shown that there are some general characteristics of a good, safe running shoe…

“Characteristics of a good, safe running shoe include: Minimal heel-to-toe drop, Neutral, Light in weight… Be sure the shoe has a wide toe box…

“Shoe qualities to avoid: Thick[Soft] cushioning, High heel to toe drop, arch support inserts…”

i just got the updated kso’s (now thats a TRUE update) and love them! of course some random person stopped to tell me about the settlement that the sales person also mentioned…but i don’t actually use the for running. i use them for all the walking i do in town. i used to get shin splints wearing my no heal, but thick soled boots, and even my fairly low profile NBs. so, this settlement effects me none. they work for my purposes, and i’ve no care for running on concrete in any shoes or barefoot.

When I first started using the VFFs I remember being advised to break my feet in at 2 hour intervals so the weak muscles in my feet slowly strengthen, I went the 4th day all day and my legs hurt like I just ran in loose sand at the beach, I went back to the break in 2 hours everyother day for 4 weeks then I started going longer, now I put them on in the morning and take them off 14 or more hours later.
It is unfortunate that some people would rather sue a manufacturer for something the individual did wrong.

All I can say from my experience with my 6 pairs of five fingers is I love them. I have bone spurs and I have plantars fasciitis. when I wear my five fingers my pain is greatly reduced if not gone. for the people who just want to make a quick buck, they can kiss my bunions. I just wish I could get my five fingers in leather.

Ditto Tuck! I was going to stay far away from this mess but you have a great point. I only have about 30 pair and I am missing some colours. I guess I better start buying incase they do stop making them (or just because I love them). 😉

I could never in good conscience be part of the suit. I will stand behind Vibram and their product. Even though I was an avid barefooter outside of work, they allowed me to continue those practices and reap the benefits of being natural all the times I couldn’t before their products. Since my transition in 2009 my quality of life has been improved beyond words. They have also changed my wife’s life as well, improving pain and other issues.
I will forever be naked from the ankles down, but when I can’t VFF’s are my go to foot coverings.

Thank you Vibram, and I’m looking for many more years of your VFF’s! Keep them toed, ultra thin (new models are too thick), and some casual/business models in mind…

I’m a nurse and I work at a nursing home part time. Been there for a while and have always used regular running sneakers. At the end if the night my feet were sore. I bought my first pair of Fives in 2010, after almost a year of “research”, while stationed at Ft McCoy, WI. Been wearing then to the gym and going on runs with then ever since. One day I decided to wear my Fives at the nursing home. The reactions went from “Cool! Are those comfortable? Those things are pretty wild.” To “Those are friggin gross!” Either way, my feet felt fine after a non-stop 8 hrs on my feet. Nothing spectacular had happened since I started wearing Fives but that shorter left leg that my doc told me to get orthotic inserts for is no longer short. My hip pain no longer exists. My arches are stronger than ever. I was one of the first people at my local Y to wear fives and I got a lot of different reactions to them…mostly negative. I live in a small hick town 100 miles from Chicago. Some of these small town, and small minded guys in the weight room even questioned my sexuality over me wearing my Fives. Meh, whatever. Like I said it’s a small town with small minds. Either way, as time passed I started seeing a pair of Fives worn at the gym every now and then. A year or so has passed and there are lots Fives in my gym. As awesome as that is what’s more awesome is that the old folks I take care of love my “toe shoes”. The times I don’t wear my Fives at the nursing home I get complaints from my residents who want to see me in my Fives. Vibram Five Fingers haven’t changed my life but they did make my feet happy. Feet are our foundation and if your foundation is solid the rest will follow.

I would never ask for a refund and hope the charity gets all of the settlement! 15 pairs and counting for me. I wear them anytime I have to have shoes on. And the few times I need to wear dress shoes is very uncomfortable. I think the company made a good call to settle, cheaper that way. Shame on the person who chose not to take responsibility for herself! Have a Happy 5 Finger kind of day!

My Five Fingers have allowed me to run gain without having 8-12 weeks of downtime a year from knee and shin injuries. I used t buy the most expensive, thick cushioned Nike or New Balance shoe available. Now I can run twice a day if I want which I could have never done before. I’m 54 and I’ve been running since high school.

Here’s some highlights of the ACSM’s recommendations:

“There is no right shoe that fits all runners. However, research and injury patterns have shown that there are some general characteristics of a good, safe running shoe…

“Characteristics of a good, safe running shoe include: Minimal heel-to-toe drop, Neutral, Light in weight… Be sure the shoe has a wide toe box…

“Shoe qualities to avoid: Thick[Soft] cushioning, High heel to toe drop, arch support inserts…”

HA! That’s what I gotta say! I’ve been saying the same damn thing since 2007, when I got my very first pair and started educating the masses about my “crazy monkey shoes.” I’m a personal trainer and a licensed massage therapist, not to mention being medically retired from the Army in 2012 for–among many other issues–a severely messed up right Achilles tendon! I wore my VFFs when I wasn’t in boots, and now that I’m out they are ALL I wear, with the occasional sideline in a pair of Vivobarefoot Achilles flipflops, or just going barefoot. (I have since increased my collection of VFFs to nearly 40 pairs… And it continues to grow. I like variety.)

This lawsuit is BS. The action against Sketchers was, in my opinion, justified because their “rocker” sneakers WERE hurting people when they were saying their shoes would do everything from help you lose weight to walk better. TOTAL BS! (Notice the “rocker” shoes aren’t around anymore…)

VFFs are sold in the Navy Exchange stores, and to date, all services BUT the US Army (who will be drug kicking and screaming into the 21st Century…!) have approved VFFs for use during physical training, albeit certain color schemes. THAT says something!

Wiggling my toe shoes at the ignorant masses,


I am a physician and have been wearing my Vibram every day at work for over 5 years (i constantly have to answer questions from patients and family members – like – are they really comfortable? – Seriously, I am on my feet all day – why would I wear something uncomfortable on my feet or body – it is not like I have to wear heels or anything (like my wife)). I have run, walked, played in vibram nearly every day (occasionally wear merrel minimalist goretex running shoes in winter/heavy rain). I have over a dozen pairs, and absolutely love my shoes. Decreased my hip/knee pain and more frequent PT visits wearing all of the other pairs of shoes – that did not work for me (really that lawsuit is absurd – if it does not work for you – get a different pair of shoes – do not sue a company because it did not magically make you a pain free better runner/walker). Heck I even wear my KSO leather to Black Tie affairs.

I for one will not be partaking in any part of the class action suit. I love my vibrams – and to think of taking the money to buy another pair – does not suit me either – since for me if I were to take any money then I would believe in the class action suit.

Follow up on the article: I heard a rumor Chris McDougall was backing away from his role in promoting barefoot/minimalist running.

Any chance this is credible or could you swing an interview and get him on the record on the settlement?

Tough Mudders, Spartans, Cannonballs, Warrior Challenges… A few years ago very few participants wore minimal footwear, now it’s easily two thirds of the field (mostly VFFs).

I’m picking up my fifth pair this weekend.

In reading the original lawsuit, I found it very… curious (with a healthy dose of eye-roll) that nowhere in the claim did it mention any before-and-after condition of the person filing the suit. Meaning we can never know for sure that the Vibrams “didn’t do what they were ‘supposed’ to do” and/or that the person was actually hurt by them. If you want to be reductionist and snarky, which I gladly am in this case, the original lawsuit basically amounted to, “Nyah, I don’t like how they said this shoe was magical and it isn’t.”

Many people are stupid, and so was this lawsuit; that’s my take on it. Could Vibram have been more careful with its language? Sure. On those grounds alone, was a suit perhaps justified in being filed? Fine, I’ll allow that, begrudgingly. Is it a great thing that this country allows us to file such frivolous suits? Absolutely not. It spreads ignorance–“See, lulz, I told you your ugly toe gloves were stupid and now it’s legal proof”–and casts bad PR on what is most likely a beneficial way to train, based on biomechanics and anthropological principles–not marketing copy.

Is there scientific evidence that barefoot running is “better” than foot-coffin running? Not really–but then, was there ever any scientific evidence that running in cushioned sneakers was better for the human body? Is anecdotal evidence really something that should be laughed off and ignored, instead of taken as a valuable first step to formulating and then trying to prove out a hypothesis?

I’d like to see the bodily integrity, biomechanics, and strength of a person training barefoot, in Vibrams, or in minimalist sneakers his or her entire training life compared to one who does the same in sneakers compared to one who switches to Vibrams midstream. But of course, anti-Vibram folks will cry that this isn’t a feasible study and would take too long. The same excuse that today’s brainwashed nutritionists and physicians use to cite Conventional Wisdom as the only reliable source for nutritional health.

People are just great, aren’t they…

And for the record, I’m not taking the money. Although I pondered it for a while because the conditions state that unclaimed funds will go to the American Heart Association… and I don’t believe in the AHA’s guidelines for heart health when they freely allow the “heart healthy” stamp on Cheerios and still cling to the same Conventional Wisdom for health that got a lot of us in the U.S. inflamed and obese in the first place.

Ideally, I would take the money, and then send it right back with a nice note. And then buy a new pair of KSO Evo’s with my own pre-existing money. Maybe that’s the way to go 😛

Screw those attorneys and the idiots who blame someone else for their own shortcomings. I have been wearing my 5 Fingers on daily, yes, daily runs for the last five years and haven’t had a single injury. I started slow and took it easy and it was no problem. People just continue to want something for nothing and then when they can’t get it need to find someone to blame.

I could never take a dime from this obscene lawsuit.

VFFs changed my life for the better. Here’s my story.

I played multiple sports including contact ones through high school and college. My knees were essentially devastated and had shin splints that made any activity an act of pain tolerance. Additionally, my back and hips were just another painful area to deal with on a daily basis. At 22 years old, I limped like a 90 year old and couldn’t do any cardio that included impact (was confined to ellipticals and bikes). Along with this, I am flat footed and had been encased in motion controlled trainers and orthotics for most of my life.

Several years ago, I noticed a little blurb in a magazine regarding VFFs. I thought they were the most ridiculous thing I ever saw! However, shortly after I bought what would be my last pair of traditional sneakers ($165 motion controlled cross trainers). I couldn’t walk for a week after my first workout in them. After consulting my orthopedic and the trusty Internet, I was looking at drastic knee surgeries or….try what I had delegated to ridiculous stupidity, VFFs

I decided on the VFF route in the form of a pair of the original KSOs. I spent a year working up to them and was eventually able to do full workouts including ROAD running (something I hadn’t done in years and now continue to do pain free). I still wore traditional shoes for everyday life until I had a flare up of my knee issues again. After trying everything I could, I decided to wear my my VFFs in public as well as the gym. Except for work when I were NB Minimus, I am now always wearing a pair of VFFs. I’ve even climbed some Colorado mountains in them. My wife and I are Walt Disney World fanatics and I used to limp throughout our vacations there. I now can go the entire time with just tired muscles from the 10+ miles of walking we do.

I am pain free from the back down and the consummate advocate for VFFs and always inform people to gradually work up to them. The idiots who brought this lawsuit are just crooks who want to blame someone else for misuse of a product or their own ignorant expectations.

Diane’s comment best translates my thoughts on this.

I will NEVER participate in this stupid charade of a lawsuit, and I will keep buying Fivefingers as long as I can walk, which I know thanks to those shoes will be a very very long time.I have 21 pairs and they are one of my most prized possessions.

Finally people are seeing what a fraud this was from the start. The shoes are horrible for you, look stupid and were just a fad people jumped on.

Another VFF/minimal convert here, and I see preaching mostly to the choir. Started running in 2007 in my mid 30’s. Did my first marathon, and developed a pretty severe case of piriformis syndrome (look it up, it’s not fun). This is months after getting increasingly more cushy stability shoes, and even custom orthotics. Was getting close to giving up running, even though I enjoyed it so much, when I read the infamous Born to Run book. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I bought my first pair of VFF’s, and have never looked back. My back pain and knee issues were cleared up in just over a year. VFF’s and minimal/barefoot running have completely changed my gait, form, and biomechanics for the better. I will be among the ones that use the settlement money to buy more VFF’s. All of it must be paid anyhow, and yes the remainder will go to the AHA, but as a previous poster noted, I don’t care for a lot of their wacky and outdated recommendations. I feel that buy using their own money to buy their product is essentially returning the money to the company, AND promote their shoes by wearing a new pair!

My roommate has been practicing law for two years now. I asked him about what his thoughts are on a settlement like this. He had two take-a-way points on it:

(A) VFF settled because there is no point spending tens of thousands of dollars defending a case that you know you are going to lose. VFF did indeed screw up–saying “wearing these shoes WILL improve your health” is a LOT different than saying “wearing these shoes MAY improve your health” for example.

(B) A class-action lawyer generally gets (ballpark) about one-third of the money awarded to the class-action party (in this case, still over a million dollars). From the lawyers perspective, VFF basically offered them a million dollars to walk away. If they refused VFF’s offer, they could spend a couple years working 24/7 solely on this case to try and get a higher settlement.. they may win a higher amount, the same amount, or possibly have the case dismissed if they botch it. Most lawyers enjoy the idea of receiving a million dollar check with minimal effort required, so they encourage the plaintiff(s) to accept the $$$.

@ Brian (on 5/22): have a look at this interview with McDougall from last month (after the settlement):

It doesn’t look to me that he’s backing off at all.

Re: the settlement generally – I’m a lawyer, and it’s hard to say for sure why this case was settled. All of the possibilities outlined at the top are plausible. What’s most likely to my mind is that Vibram thought the cost of settling was less than (likely jury award in case of adverse verdict) x (chance of adverse verdict).

Personally, I bought 3 pairs of VFFs during the relevant period but will not be submitting a claim. I don’t feel misled and feel that the products did what Vibram advertised. I did get hurt a couple of times in them, as I did in more traditional running shoes during the same period. I currently run in “transition” shoes – Saucony’s Kinvara – and that’s going pretty well for me. So I agree with Justin – it’s about personal responsibility for your own health, not some product – any product – being a “cure all” or silver bullet.

With over a dozen pairs purchased over the years I can walk into this knowing I purchased none of my pair because of marketing flim-flam or false information. Barefoot is barefoot and I plan to NOT ask for a dime from this lawsuit’s restitution as a customer. I got what I came here to experience with regards to getting into and making barefooting a daily activity as part of my overall plan. This lawsuit is BS and Vibram said “hey, you know what, it’s BS, but it’s going to be cheaper to settle than fight and tarnish our brand.” For that I will be purchasing more pair for years to come!

First of all I agree that the settlement is idiotic. It’s almost like suing a company that makes weights if you hurt yourself from lifting too much too soon.

That being said you’re not really helping vibram by not making a claim. If you support the AHA and want them to get as much leftover money as possible then not making a claim makes sense. But vibram has to pay out all the money anyway regardless of the # of claims so making a claim and using the money to buy more fivefingers will help support vibram more than not making a claim. You could also make a claim and use the money to donate to another charity if you’re not a fan of the AHA.

I love them. I just bought my second pair. I am a hair stylist and spend 40+ hours on my feet. My feet have never felt better. I wear them to work. I just did my very first 5k recently. It was on a beach. The vibrams were perfect. No sand in the shoes, no twisted ankles. It was a great experience. The only reason I would do the lawsuit would be to get another pair of shoes.

Another convert right here, and started AFTER I knew about the settlement

I did some research and believe in the benefits and am going for my fourth pair!

As a lawyer myself believe the settlement was a matter of cost, it was cheaper and less painful to settle.

I just hope they continue to make the VFFs forever!!!

I had written out a really long response, then accidentally closed the window out before I could post it. I am not going to rewrite the whole thing, because most people on here are already on VFF’s side, and they have had similar experiences with people that try to tell us we are hurting ourselves by wearing VFF’s. I am gonna keep it simple instead this time and say this. I feel really sorry for people that did not give VFF’s or barefoot shoes in general a real shot, and do it right. I listened to my body and made the transition based on what my body was telling me and it has helped my back and knee pain tremendously. I have very rarely had back spasms that used to plague me since switching over, and have also had less knee issues. It’s sad to see short sided people that don’t know how to give something a fair and realistic shot at a product win a lawsuit like this. In the end, VFF’s are not for everybody, but only the chosen few that have the patience to adjust to living a new, free, barefoot life full of more developed leg and foot muscles. To me, switching to barefoot shoes is a lot like a person whose hands are getting used to rock climbing

The studies they tried to attach to the lawsuit are just bananas… “research has not yet adequately shed light on the immediate and long-term effects of [barefoot running]…

You know who has confirmed it? Every human who was born before 1950.

I put in my settlement request the second I saw the settlement a few months ago so I could purchase more Vibram shoes to support the company- we’re entitled to the settlement money even as very satisfied customers, and with toe shoes, I was able to run without pain for the first time in my life.

Whatever you’ve got on your feet, just take ’em off!
The human foot is perfectly capable, 99% of the time, to handle their intended job. Shoes are sometimes a useful tool for extreme temperatures and/or terrain – not a necessity. I haven’t worn shoes at all in years and my feet couldn’t be healthier – same for my legs, knees, spine, and general posture and well-being.

Or, to put it in different terms, of all the creatures on this planet, why are we the only ones who have apparently been born defective and require artificial attachments to our extremities in order to move about our habitat? We aren’t defective – we’ve just been conditioned by the footwear industry to believe that we need their overpriced appendage attachments.

I am a Licensed Massage Therapist and I LOVE LOVE LOVE my VFF’s!!! My heart sank recently when I opened my Christmas present to find a shiny new pair of FF’s and to be told that there was a lawsuit that supposedly was shutting the whole thing down. The salesperson at the REI apparently dramatized the facts a bit.

I started wearing VFF’s a number of years ago and by the end of that first summer season my ankle and knee pain was almost eliminated AND my overall spinal posture had improved. I was sold! This is my 3rd pair and the ONLY shoe I ever want to wear while practicing massage. I feel like a Clydsedale if I wear anything else and the Dept of Health demands I wear shoes.

Please please please don’t stop making these shoes as I cannot afford to buy half a dozen back up pair to stock pile for the future =P

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