timberland earth boots Barefoot running shoe maker forced to withdraw health claims
Runners in the United States who bought a pair of fashionable Vibram barefoot running shoes could be in line for a refund, after the manufacturer admitted that their trainers did not have any scientifically proven health benefits.
The shoes, with their distinctive five toed design, were marketed as a natural alternative to traditional supportive footwear and ones which could prevent common runners’ injuries.
Scarlett Johansson, Danny Glover, Kate Hudson and James Cracknell have all experimented with the shoes, which were launched in 2005 and rapidly grew to account for two per cent of all trainer sales. Big brands such as Nike, adidas and New Balance all followed Vibram’s lead, creating their own “minimalist” shoe.
Scarlett Johansson jogging in a pair of Vibrams (FLYNET)
“Imagine footwear that can actually help make the foot healthier, that can strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs, improve range of motion and increase sensory reception important to balance and agility,” Vibram’s website says.
“Imagine footwear that might just make running safer and healthier, by encouraging a forefoot strike and a more natural running form that creates less impact on the knees, hips and lower back. That is what Vibram FiveFingerscan offer.”
Of course, barefoot running as a sport in itself was not new.
Bruce Tulloh, a British athlete, famously ran barefoot winning gold in the 5,000 metres at the 1962 European Championships.
Zola Budd, the South African runner who broke the 5,000m world record in 1984, was also a frequent barefoot competitor.
But Vibram, which was founded 75 years ago to make hiking boots, began making specialised ultra light shoes in 2005.
In 2007 they were named by Time magazine as one of the year’s best health inventions, and a 2009 book, Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, helped enhance the popularity of the shoe.
“The benefits of running barefoot have long been supported by scientific research,” the company claim on the site. “And there is ample evidence that training without shoes allows you to run faster and farther with fewer injuries.”
But Vibram has been forced to withdraw the claim of health benefits, after Valerie Bezdek brought a law suit against them in March 2012 in Massachusetts, where the firm is headquartered.
The firm continues to deny wrongdoing, but as part of the 2.2m settlement has agreed to remove claims that the shoes are effective in strengthening muscles or reducing injury.
“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.
The settlement agreement is subject to court approval, but customers who submit claims could receive $20 to $50 in compensation.
Karen Weir, a running coach who trains newsreader Sophie Raworth and presenter Jenni Falconer, said that she was not surprised by the settlement.
are many other ways of improving your running without resorting to barefoot shoes, she said. tell people that there has never been any science to back the claims up, and they usually only serve to introduce a whole range of other injuries.
She added that McDougall has since pointed out that he was misquoted and that his book is about learning to run gently and efficiently, rather than recommending barefoot shoes.
a huge bandwagon that people have jumped on. No professional runners or coaches use them, except possibly in training by running on grass in them to strenghen their feet. It a fad that is dying out.
And despite the celebrity endorsements, some sports analysts noted that the actual sales figures for the shoes had fallen and pointed out that the niche shoes were not suitable for the majority of runners.
James Cracknell wrote in The Telegraph last month that he had tried the shoes and found them useful for training, but would not use them for running competitively.
An analyst for Running Warehouse wrote in January: “With the hype surrounding the less is more philosophy over recent seasons, it’s easy for runners and shoe manufacturers to get caught up with your new low profile, natural running footwear models.
“Manufacturers are realising, though, that a majority of runners are sticking with the traditional models that they know and love. Expect brands to increase their focus on their core, traditional footwear models in the coming year.”