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"Barefoot" running craze still going strong

vibrams.jpg

Today, a bit of business news: CNN Money reports that Vibram FiveFingers, the shoeless shoes that fueled a "barefoot" running craze, have been so successful the company is running into an unanticipated problem:

...the biggest threat to Vibram is a full-court press by counterfeiters. More than 200 fake Vibram websites selling branded knockoffs have appeared online. The counterfeiters' shoes mimic the colors, styles, and logos of FiveFingers; they come in painstakingly made copies of Vibram boxes, with return shipping labels identical to those that Vibram provides its customers. The sham sites pop up constantly, and getting just one of them shut down can cost up to $2,500 in fees for help from lawyers and the World Intellectual Property Organization, says Georgia Shaw, a Vibram marketing associate.

"It's like Whack-a-Mole," Shaw says. "It's become a really huge problem, taking a lot of our time and energy."

Claims that barefoot (or, rather, reduced-shoe) running can build better foot muscles, as well as improve range of motion, balance and posture, have been substantiated to some degree by researchers in recent years, but doctors caution the practice is not for everyone. Lewis Maharam, MD, medical director for the New York Road Runners, said in a 2009 New York Times article:

"In 95 percent of the population or higher, running barefoot will land you in my office... A very small number of people are biomechanically perfect."

Photo by Dana Beveridge

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