Vibram is an Italian company known for making high quality rubber soles used in mountaineering and hiking boots. Vibram manufactures more than 34 million soles annually for more than 1,000 premium footwear brands worldwide. FiveFingers is an innovative shoe that was created by Robert Fliri, a mountaineer and industrial designer. He conceived the shoe as a glove for the foot that would mimic the feel of running barefoot. The biggest difference from a normal running shoe is the five toes which make the foot move like in nature. With the FiveFingers shoe every toe can spread out and work independently from the others, grasp the ground and feel the ground. This is totally different from a shoe where the toes are stuck together. Your movements are more flexible, more supple.
Tony Post, Vibram’s CEO in the United States at the time was an avid runner. He quickly became a fan of the concept. He discovered that FiveFingers allowed his feet to move more naturally and react to the environment. Plus they relieved his knee pain. Post approached shoe makers in the United States about partnering on producing this radically different five-toe lightweight shoe. The shoe style was so different that everyone turned him down. He also approached retailers who also turned him down.
Vibram decided to market the shoes as their own brand. Vibram positioned FiveFingers as a performance product and introduced the shoes in 2006 at the Boston Marathon. They created a viral marketing campaign to get the word out in fitness and running circles. In 2007, Time Magazine named the shoe one of the year’s best health inventions. Two years later, Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run” which touted the benefits of barefoot running, became a best-seller. A study by Harvard biologists published in the journal Nature concluded that barefoot runners land on the balls of their feet, rather than on their heel, ultimately creating less joint stress and reducing injuries.
Consumers were quick to adopt the new shoes as a result of the positive press. Sales are expected to exceed $100 Million Dollars annually. Vibram, long known as a supplier of soles, has rebranded itself into a manufacturer of cutting-edge footwear that has made an impact on the running shoe market.
This customer does a great job of telling the story. “I love these shoes. This was my first pair of FiveFingers. I wear them everywhere (airports, walking around, short jogs, or just walking around the house) but mostly for just walking. People either like them and ask questions, or they think the shoes are weird. Feeling the surfaces you’re walking on is great. You walk a little funny starting out, as your feet strengthen. You have to try them! you’ll love them.”
Have you tried Vibram’s FiveFinger running shoe?