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Vibram Five Fingers facing class action over health claims

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by NewsBot, Mar 29, 2012.

  1. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

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    SportsOneSource are reporting:
    Vibrams FiveFingers Sued over Health Claims
  2. Admin2

    Admin2 Administrator Staff Member

  3. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    It was bound to happen. If you make health or medial claims for a product, you had better have the evidence to back it up.

    We have already seen Reebok settle with the FTC for $25 million over the health claims they made for their toning shoes. Skechers have set aside $44 million to deal with class action suits and are in discussions with the FTC over the claims they made.

    I have said this in several other threads .... look at some recent issues of Runners World. ....look at the advertisements for running shoes. None of the traditional running shoe are making any health/medical/injury claims about their shoes. The only health/medical/injury claims are being made by the minimalist running shoes companies. Claims like "run in our shoes and you will get less injuries"! Not only is their no evidence to support those claims, you only need to get an injury and those companies have left themselves wide open for this exact type of class action!
  4. Yep. Wonder how the five finger zealots will cover this one in their blogs?
  5. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

  6. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Runners World have picked up on the story:
    Vibram Sued Over FiveFingers Claims.
    Reading some of the comments on the story is interesting:
    Really? What evidence actually showed barefoot was better? We been around that stump many times.
    I predict they will settle before trial or that they will loose big time. I also predict the FTC will get involved and they will have to settle with them as well (just look at the Reebok and Skechers settlements mentioned above)
    The conspiracy nutters are getting involved. BUT, yes you can take a class action against any of the running shoe companies whose shoes you wore and got and injury PROVIDED that they made health/medical/injury claims for their shoes that are not supported by the evidence.
    Yes, if they made medical claims for the product.
    Ask Reebok about frivolous - they had to settle.

    ...and it goes on.

    But i do agree re the ambulance chasers etc etc
  7. toomoon

    toomoon Well-Known Member

    This is EXACTLY what I predicted.. so many similarities between minimalist and toning.
    I ask again.. how the hell did a kayaking shoe suddenly become a marathon running shoe?

    The answer.. it never did.. irt was all just marketing shlock. For the Bliase DuBois's of the world.. the companies he attacks.. Nike, adidas, ASICS with their "big bulky shoes" never get sued because we never make statements we can't support, and the consumer, for the vast majority is satisfied the product does what it says it will..

    what a joke! The only loser here is the poor buggers who got crippled by the VFF..I am sure VFF have so much cash in the kitty they will laugh at the fine
  8. Yep, just checked out some of those comments. And I do agree that people who write on blog sites are generally as mad as a box of frogs.
  9. I guess I haven't helped Vibram very much either......

  10. did no one else find this funny ?

    5 law firms suing VFF

    small things I guess
  11. Here is a posting I made on November 9, 2010 from the thread Vibram FiveFingers Cause Metatarsal Stress Fractures

    I guess the attorney that contacted me wanting me to be an expert in their class action suit against Vibram finally found someone else to help them out.:cool:
  12. Why did you turn it down?
  13. I just wasn't interested in getting involved. Never been a big fan of lawyers (way too many of them here in the USA) or lawsuits...but it is interesting to watch these things from the sidelines as a casual observer of the legal system at work.

    However, I do have some pretty good lawyer jokes that I can tell the next time we see each other...:cool:
  14. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Interesting following the development of this story. I have seen about 6 blog posts on this so far and did not think that the coverage of the story was that one-sided. Only just now has a "mainstream" media organosation had something on it:

    The Boston Globe: Concord maker of FiveFingers running shoe faces suit over health claims

    The 'blogsphere' (including us here at Podiatry Arena) were on to this story 6-8hrs ahead of the mainstream media...... things are changing.

    I did pick this comment from that story:
    I would love to know what evidence that they think they are referring to re "fewer injuries".
  15. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Here is more from the blogosphere:
    ....but the "conventional" footwear makers have not been making health/medical claims about their shoes.
    Reading the comments on that blog, its clear that most are just not getting what this is about.

    At least one of the comments got it right:
    I wish someone could explain to me what the evidence is that Vibram thinks actually supports them.
  16. Here are Vibram's sources:

    Chris McDougall and "Born to Run" (a man that complained about Nike throughout his book but decided to run in a pair of thick-soled, heavily cushioned Nike Pegasus for his 50 mile run)

    Daniel Lieberman (his Harvard website and all of his "running biomechanics research" is sponsored by Vibram)

    Nick Campitelli, DPM (medical consultant for Vibram and his Podiatry Today blog on the "10 Myths of Barefoot Running")

    They should do quite well in court.....:rolleyes:

    For some reason, this whole Vibram Class Action Lawsuit scenario puts a big smile on my face.:D
  17. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    I have been following comments on blogs throughout the day on this as the story develops. Here some observations:

    - most making comments are not getting it. The basis of the case is the medial/health/injury claims made by Vibram and the lack of evidence to support the claims (this is where Reebok and Skechers got busted - see above)

    - many people are calling for a class action against the traditional running shoes companies. They still not getting it either, as these companies are not making health/medical/injury claims (check the claims in adverts in running magazines and see who is actually making the claims)

    - many still do not get it regarding the evidence. Unfortunately for Vibram the extent of the evidence is probably what Kevin mentioned above ... ie there is no evidence!

    - the whole thing has brought the tin foil hat wearing brigade out en masse

    - the very same people who where cheering on the action and FTC settlement regarding the Reebok toning shoes are now the ones whinging about this Vibram one !!! ... don't figure that its frivolous when its against Vibram, but its not frivolous when its against Reebok!

    - many are making claims that this case is like the spilt hot coffee case against McDonalds - they just showing their ignorance of the facts in that case.

    - I think the whole thing is stupid. Reebok, Skechers and Vibram (and McDonalds!) should NEVER be facing these claims (despite that lack of evidence for the claims they are making and probably should not have been making anyway!) ... where does personal responsibility end? .... if you want to wear those shoes, you need to take personal responsibility.

    - In Australia and the United Kingdom, there are advertising standards authorities and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (Australia) that complaints can be made about claims being made for products in adverts. If the complaints are upheld, they then get told to stop making the claims. End of story. No law suits. No multi-million $ settlements --- unless they fail to comply. (nothing to do with running shoes, but this is how the Circulation Booster got dinged in Australia and the UK)
  18. Tuckersm

    Tuckersm Well-Known Member

    Australia also has the ACCC who a couple of days ago told Apple to stop advertising the new iPad as a G4 in Australia, because it doesn't connect to any Aus G4 network. This lead tonApple offering refunds to anyone mislead, but may require Apple to put stickers on all of the new iPad boxes
  19. Admin2

    Admin2 Administrator Staff Member

  20. admin

    admin Administrator Staff Member

  21. Dana Roueche

    Dana Roueche Well-Known Member

    Craig, excellent point. Earlier today I mentioned to a running friend that whenever something requires common sense to stay safe, it just isn't going to happen. There are going to be people that all of a sudden decide to get off the couch after never running before in their lives, throw on a pair of VFF's and run in them everyday on pavement with poor form and ignore the inevitable pain warnings.

    For the past 2 yrs I have been doing roughly 25% of my running in VFF or an avg of a couple runs per week. I don't wear them because I want to be more protected from injury, because I think I'll run faster in them or that I'll develop better form or stronger feet. I wear them because I simply derive joy out of the running experience they provide me.

    People can grunt and groan about this shoe vs that shoe, traditional shoes vs minimal shoes. Who cares? I think Vibram Fivefingers are an absolute joy to run in.

    I don't care if they were initially designed for ballroom dancing, fly fishing, to take a shower in or boat shoes. For me, it is simply about the experience they provide while running on natural trails. I have learned long ago that I could run 100 miles non stop in anything that fit my foot properly and I proved it to myself in a pair of Rockport casual shoes in the mountains of Colorado.

    I fully recognize that overdoing anything when it comes to running introduces risk of injury. Unfortunately, the general public needs to be protected against it's own stupidity when it even comes to footwear selection.

  22. Paul TG

    Paul TG Member


    What is your opinion on this by ASICS for example? Do you think this can be supported by a credible evidence base and do you think this is acceptable advertising?




    The new GEL-EXCEL33 offers protection, flexibility, comfort and support in a more natural, stripped-back shoe. Perfect for serious runners, it has been designed to work with your foot, enhancing natural motion at every point in the stride. At the core of the shoe is the revolutionary Propulsion Trusstic™. It mimics the plantar fascia in the arch of your foot, harnessing your foot’s energy to propel you forward. The full-length Guidance Line™ also promotes a more efficient run, encouraging optimum foot positioning from foot-down to toe-off. A lower, more flexible midsole gives you a more natural road feel and running experience, while a10mm heel drop puts you in the best biomechanical position for your foot. This lightweight approach doesn’t compromise on support or durability. The GEL™ Cushioning System, Personal Heel Fit and durable sole ensure that your foot stays protected, without adding any unnecessary weight to the shoe
  23. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Its just marketing spin - nothing wrong with that; no evidence is needed to support it.

    With Vibram (and the Reebok & Skechers toning shoes), they were making specific health benefits for their products, which is problematic.

    I have the some recent issues of Runners World (Australian edition) in front of me. Here are claims made by the traditional running shoes:
    Brooks: "Float like a...."
    Saucony: (all about the change from 8mm to 10 mm heel differential, but no health/medical/injury claims made from the change)
    Minzuno: "stabilizes and assist motion"
    Colombia: eg "designed to neutralize pronation" ... (but no linking it to injury)
    Puma: "FaasFoam technology"
    Reebok: "try the shoe with the energy boost"

    Here are the claims made by the minimalist companies:
    Altra: "designed to reduce injury"
    Vivobarefoot: paraphrasing "run in these shoes and get less injuries"

    Which group are setting themselves up for an investigation by advertising authorities or a class action if the claims they make for the product do not eventuate?
  24. Paul TG

    Paul TG Member


    Thanks for the comment, I'm just wondering though how suggesting for example that 'a 10mm heel drop puts you in the best biomechanical position for your foot or that the trusstic mimics the pl fascia function or that the shoe enhances natural motion at every stride is credibly supportable when every runner by ASIC's own admission is different and there is no evidence that a 10mm heel drop is actually the best biomechanical position (whatever that actually means). Is this not a case of a company suggesting improved biomechanical function which indirectly hints at less injury and better performance for the user, presumbaly because alternatively poor mechanical function might be associated by the public as likely to increase the risk of injury

    Do you think that would also hold true for an OTC foot support that claimed to enhance natural foot motion and put your foot in the best biomechanical position? Thanks

  25. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    I agree, I am not aware of any research that supports that. I am aware of a lot of comments from the designers with several different companies that their own internal testing shows that the majority of runners prefer 10mm (though Saucony have just gone to 8mm). I am sure we would all agree that it is incumbent on the companies to produce research on this, but its not a legal or advertising standards authority issue if they don't.
    The difference is that they are not explicitly claiming the injury reduction or less injuries. This is where Vibram will probably slip up (and Reebok got busted and Skechers probably going to get busted)
    Probably, but its just marketing hype and not a specific and explicit "if you wear this, you will get less injuries" claim.
  26. Blaise Dubois

    Blaise Dubois Active Member

    Hey mate,
    What an ASICS Cumulus or Nimbus have good for running? A height heel?, cushioning? some technologies to control the motion of the foot?
    Can you explain... because me I'm running in flat shoes and I'm doing boat and kayaking with my BBS of ASICS

    I loving ASICS Piranha... but the retailer told me that is only for skinny fast runner that compete...

    Just to refresh your mind (question I ask you in another post)
    Q (Blaise Dubois): Do the shoes sold by ASICS prevent from injuries? A (Simon Baretold): Yes absolutely!

    Be careful Siman
  27. Blaise Dubois

    Blaise Dubois Active Member

    All these terms are used in order to confuse the reader-runner-retailer... to let him hope that the shoes are decreasing injuries. No study, therefore not clear statement. but confusing information spread around the world... for the runners and the retailers that repeat often in their words (and believe it) that moderne shoes prevent injuries. Finally everybody is fooled...

    In a recent presentation of Simon Bartold (international research co-ordinator for Asics) he present to all the independent canadian retailers that running shoes made by ASICS was preventing injuries (presenting the study of Kingchinton)... no questions from the audience... just believe that it was true... and repeat that to thousands of runners for most of them. Moreover he defend that in a blog...

    In a recent post, Simon Bartold answers to one of my question... Q (Blaise Dubois): Do the shoes sold by ASICS prevent from injuries? A (Simon Bartold): Yes absolutely... (He retract after and tell me that it was just a personal opinion);)

    So even if ASICS have very good "politicians" to calculate how to say thing and make term appealing, the result for me is the same... it's marketing based on nothing scientific except hopes ...
  28. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    Vibram have responded with a statement as reported by Sporting Goods Intelligence :
  29. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Thats what Reebok were saying right up until they settled for $25 million and what Skechers are saying, yet they have set aside $44 million in their financial accounts for it!
  30. NewsBot

    NewsBot The Admin that posts the news.

    I can not track down the full statement from Vibram and can only get snippets reported by others. Here is more from the "statement", reported by SportsOneSource:
  31. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Where is the risk management strategy for the company? I recall flagging this type of action against minimalist running shoe companies at least a couple of years ago because of the health benefit claims they were making that were not supported by the evidence. I would have thought the lessons from the $25million settlement with Reebok should have spurred some sort of risk management strategy. They should not have been surprised by this. A lot of people could see it coming.
  32. I think they see it as a profit : risk offset. The reality is the marketing claims made And the profits made on the back of these claims have probably more than offset any losses they will make should they loose the action.
  33. Admin2

    Admin2 Administrator Staff Member

    From: More on the Vibram 5 Fingers Lawsuit

    Runners World got a lawyer to explain the case: The Vibram Lawsuit, Explained
    Some snippets:
  34. Maybe the Hoka One One got it right with their maximalist shoes and no claims of anything other than running through uneven surfaces easier. After running in shoes for years awitching to Vibram FF does not make any sense, perhaps running on the beach to prevent feet contusions, or the grass of a golf course. The runners that I have seen with stress fractures do what runners do..they get a new pair of shoes, and run their usual run, irrespective of the change in shoes ....until a problem occurs.
  35. CamWhite

    CamWhite Active Member

    Brands like Hoka One One and Joya have it right. They make absolutely no medical or therapeutic claims. They are not the "cure" for anything. The goal of these brands is to communicate the intent to design shoes that make walking, running and standing more enjoyable. You don't need studies to back your desire to create enjoyable shoes.

    What's interesting is that the marketplace weighs in with the medical and therapeutic benefits of the shoes. Kevin Kirby takes a run in his new Hokas, and reports on how pleasurable the shoes are for his passion of running. He further opines that he might recommend them for patients with certain pathologies, based upon his experience wearing the shoes. Joya customers, including physicians are happily submitting unsolicited testimonials about relief from a wide variety of lower extremity pathologies.

    It's a smart branding strategy. Don't advertise any therapeutic claims - let the marketplace be your voice.
  36. Bobba Booey

    Bobba Booey Active Member

    I was browsing the Nike website and noticed the following statement about their Shox cushioning:

    A revolution in cushioning and impact protection. Nike Shox technology provides an optimal environment for cushioning, a slower rate of impact loading (which helps reduce the risk of impact-related injuries) and a uniquely responsive feel. The highly resilient foam in Nike Shox columns is made of energy-efficient material that enhances durability and spring.

    Source - Under the Technology tab, then click on Nike Shox

    Most of the statement was fine except the part in parenthesis. Should Nike being making such a claim without the evidence to back it up?

    I think all of these lawsuits are silly but if Vibram is being called out for unsubstantiated claims shouldn't Nike be held to the same standard? I don't personally have anything against Nike and own many pairs of Nike shoes. Just curious about your opinions on the above statement.
  37. CamWhite

    CamWhite Active Member

    If a manufacturer can prove that their technology reduces impact and returns energy, it can be reasonably assumed that reducing skeletal shock may be beneficial to weight-bearing joints, and possibly lessening impact-related injuries. It is relatively easy to measure the cushioning and rebound performance of shoes.

    If the same manufacturer uses this data and claims that their shoe technology is the "cure" for plantar fasciitis, osteoarthritis and other pathologies, then peer-reviewed studies would be warranted to back these claims.
  38. efuller

    efuller MVP

    Measuring impact reduction is not so easy in people. There was study that looked at impact, knee angle and various surfaces. People, tended to bend their knee more on harder surfaces and the force at impact was kept about the same even though what was landed on changed. Having the knee more flexed will tend to lead to increased quadriceps contraction (think standing with your leg extended and flexed and note how fast you get tired with the knee flexed). The quadriceps contraction may lead to increased compressive forces at the knee (also may not, depends on many factors). So, you just can't measure ground impact and correlate it with multiple types of injury an expect meaningful results.

    The body's learning to run with less impact is probably what the barefooters see when they see less ground reaction force at impact. Barefooters, with no additional cushioning, need to run like they are trying not to hurt their feet. The stress is just placed somewhere else.

  39. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    What Cam said:
    The difference that Vibram and, especially Vivobarefoot are saying 'run in these shoe and you will get less injurise' (paraphrased).

  40. Got a premier league rugby player in on Friday with persistent patella tendonitis. One of the things I shall be looking at is his knee flexion during running gait. Lots of quadriceps eccentric loading may not be the best for this fella, and decreasing surface stiffness and/ or gait modification to reduce knee flexion might be the way to go. However, since he's a full-back it might well be that it is his preferred kicking leg which is knackered, in which case...

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