The Minimalist Shoe Wars: Vibram Sues Fila over Trademark Infringement, release from Vibram, note by Larry Eder

If one creates something great, it will be copied. If one creates something half great, it will be copied. And the minimalist movement, which has gone from some whispers in Bolder, Colorado, to nearly a complete bookshelf of books, websites and clinics (remember Step into Minimalism, presented by Saucony, at the 2011 Boston marathon?), is now a movement that includes lightweight, is challenging valued givens in the running footwear world. There is money in this movement, and quite frankly, the lawsuits are just a fact of modern business life in these rarefied parts.

Lightweight shoes have always been around-look at track spikes and racing flats. Many athletes, performance based, figured out, over time, that as they got fitter, they could use less shoe, for long runs, trail runs, workouts on the track, etc.

Esteemed researcher Jack Daniels, advisor of Magdelena Lewy Boulet, takes a different approach. He believes that the least shape one is in, the lighter the shoe that is needed. Contrarian? Sure? But, consider it.  

In 2006, when Nike launched the Nike Free, and the minimalist shoe movement was really started. However, it was the Vibram Five Fingers, that really changed the paridigm.  While I believe that Five Fingers is quite excellent for my passion, flyfishing for trout, bass, bluegill, catfish (yes) (if there is water, I fish) in creeks and streams. Some people run trails in them. Some run on concrete in them.  Other folks love running marathons in them. Although, readers, I would suggest a word of caution in that pursuit.

mens_bikila_thumb.jpgMen's Vibram Bikila Running, photo courtesy of

I still believe that the market has missed major opportunities here: Foot health and core training for senior citizens, and folks who are trying to regain mobility. Lightweight, and the challenges from the consumer for the market to explore products that give the runner more of a contact with the surface, are all mantras, some contradictory, but some will lead to great advances.

Coaches like Brooks Johnson advocated light shoes and foot health in the seventies. So did Percy Cerrutty, the iconic coach famous for his Portsea training camp, training Herb Elliot (1960 Olympic champ, 1,500m). Cerutty had Elliot running barefoot up sand dunes and down them. My high school coach, Steve Pensinger, had us doing repeat 300s around a grass oval at DeAnza college. Proper foot action, good foot health, all are key.

1PK000EX_023_01_LG.jpg Fila Skeletoes, found at J.C. Penny's Website

In the case of the article that I spied on my press release pile, Vibram believes is protecting its trademark with this lawsuit.
The lawsuit is against the FILA company, which produces a shoe, found on the J.C. Penny website, called Skeletoes. We will provide updates....

  Vibram Sues Fila USA for Patent Infringement
               Vibram S.p.A., of Italy, today announced that it and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Vibram USA Inc. have commenced legal action in the United States District Court, District of Massachusetts against Fila USA, Inc. for patent infringement. The patents involved cover footwear having individually articulable toe portions, as embodied in Vibram's enormously successful FiveFingers® branded footwear that has helped to pioneer minimalist footwear, the barefoot running trend, and its inherent benefits.
[ Source: Vibram ]

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