Vibram Barefoot Shoes Are A Hoax, Says Science And The Law

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Are you one of those CrossFitters who love to train in those ridiculous-looking barefoot running shoes? You know, the ones with the toes. If you said yes, you might want to switch to Nanos instead.

Vibram, the company that produces FiveFingers shoes, just settled a class-action lawsuit worth $3.75 million. According to court filings, the company made misleading claims – read: false advertising – over the $100 barefoot running shoes’ health benefits, including:

1) Strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs
2) Improve range of motion in the ankles, feet, and toes
3) Stimulate neural function important to balance and agility
4) Eliminate heel lift to align the spine and improve posture
5) Allow the foot and body to move naturally

In fact, science begs to differ. “Barefoot running has been touted as improving strength and balance, while promoting a more natural running style,” reads a statement from the American Podiatric Medicine Association. “However, risks of barefoot running include a lack of protection, which may lead to injuries such as puncture wounds, and increased stress on the lower extremities.”

In a 2011 study led by researchers at Birgham Young University, a group of experienced runners were divided into two groups: the control group, who wore traditional running shoes; and the Vibram group, who wore the controversial barefoot running shoes. After 10 weeks of running, MRI scores revealed that half of the Vibram group members developed an inflammation of their bone marrow, which could very well lead to a stress fracture.

So what do you do now with your brand spankin’ new pair of FiveFingers? You get a refund! Or a partial one, at least. Anyone who bought the shoes after March 2009 can submit valid claim forms to receive anywhere between $20 and $94 per pair.

As for Vibram, the settlement effectively prevents them from making any more false claims over their product. “Vibram will not make … any claims that FiveFingers footwear are effective in strengthening muscles or preventing injury unless that representation is true, non-misleading and is supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence,” the federal settlement says.