Vibram — the makers behind those silly toe shoes adopted by everyone from weekend warriors to triathletes — is in some legal hot water for making false health claims about the shoes. I won’t be one of those buyers lining up to get my cash back, though.
I’m that girl… the type that absolutely hates wearing shoes. I can barely wait to get in the house before getting rid of those tiny foot prisons. I pretty much live in flip flops from February to November.
And wearing athletic shoes? Forget it, especially since every. single. shoe I’ve ever tried or had fitted to my high-arched footsies ended up giving me nasty blisters every time I tried to venture out for a run. It didn’t matter what I wore, until a couple of years ago when my marathon runner pal suggested the “weird toe sock-shoe things,” otherwise known as Vibram FiveFingers. Apparently, the minimalist shoes were scientifically proven to help strengthen foot muscles and help reduce foot injuries. So, I tried the shoes. They did feel a little strange at first, mostly because I wasn’t used to landing on the ball of my foot as I trudged down the path.
Soon, I wouldn’t wear anything else on my runs because — surprise — the sensitive skin around my tootsies wasn’t able to rub together, so I didn’t develop the painful blisters I was plagued with for years.
However, not everyone is so pleased with the shoes. Vibram just settled a $3.5 million class action lawsuit stemming from those “scientifically proven” benefits of their shoes that, well, weren’t so scientifically proven. Customers that purchased the shoes after March 2009 are now eligible to receive a reimbursement for up to two pairs of FiveFingers if they submit a claim. The company also agreed to stop claiming the shoes prevent injury.
Does that spell the end for FiveFingers? Not necessarily: A recent survey found that 70 percent of FiveFingers users plan to continue using their minimalist shoes.
Count me in as one of the 70 percent. My desire is to keep my feet free of the red, raw pain of blisters. I’m used to the shoes and how they affect my running stride by now, but running coach Ashley Crossman recommends first visiting with a professional before deciding if the toe shoes are right for your running needs.
“The best way to find the right shoe for your feet is to go to a local running store and get professionally fitted,” she says. “The best running stores will watch you run and analyze your gait and stride to put you in the proper shoe.”