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Vibram S.p.A. is an Italian company based in Albizzate, Italy, that both manufactures and licenses the production of Vibram-branded rubber outsoles for footwear. The company is named after its founder, Vitale Bramani, who is credited with inventing the first rubber lug soles. Vibram soles were first used on mountaineering boots, replacing leather soles fitted with hobnails or steel cleats which were commonly used up until then. The soles produced by Vibram are called Vibram soles, Vibram rubber or simply Vibram.
The deaths of six of Bramani’s mountaineering friends in the Italian Alps on September 15, 1935 was partly blamed on “inadequate footwear”. The tragedy drove Bramani to develop a new climbing sole. Two years later, he patented his invention and launched the first rubber lug soles on the market with a new tread design called the “Carrarmato” (i.e. “tank tread”), with the financial backing of Leopoldo Pirelli of Pirelli Tyres.
The sole was designed to provide excellent traction on the widest range of surfaces and have a high degree of abrasion resistance, and was made using the latest vulcanized rubber of the time. The first successful ascent to the summit of K2 was made by an Italian expedition wearing Vibram rubber on their soles in July 1954.
Today, Vibram soles are manufactured in Brazil, China, Italy, the Czech Republic and the United States, and are used by more than 1,000 footwear manufacturers in their products. Vibram is well known for pioneering the movement of barefoot running, with the FiveFingers line of shoes, which mimic the look, and mechanics, of being barefoot.
In the United States, Vibram soling products are manufactured under exclusive license by Quabaug Corporation of North Brookfield, Massachusetts which was acquired by Vibram in June 2015. Although the brand is best known among the outdoor and mountaineering community, Vibram produces numerous models of soles which are specifically designed for fashion, military, rescue, law enforcement, or industrial use. Vibram also produces soles that are used exclusively for footwear resoling.
A lawsuit was filed against Vibram in April 2012, over claims made about their Vibram FiveFingers, their minimalist shoe. Vibram claimed that the shoe “reduce(s) foot injuries, and strengthen(s) foot muscles.” The claim was based on Gert-Peter Bruggermann research accepted at the 2005 Conference for the International Society of Biomechanics. Later, a controlled study published in July 2013 showed that the risk of bone marrow edema among new wearers increased during their respective periods of transition to minimalist shoes when worn for extended periods of time. While Vibram, according to court papers, expressly denied “any actual or potential fault… or liability”, it was announced in 2014 that the company had moved to settle the suit and agreed to set aside $3.75 million to pay refunds of up to $94 to anyone who had purchased the product since March 21, 2009. In the end, few claims were filed and Vibram donated the balance of the funds to charity.
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- Ridge, ST; Johnson, AW; Mitchell, UH; Hunter, I; Robinson, E; Rich, BS; Brown, SD (July 2013). "Foot bone marrow edema after a 10-wk transition to minimalist running shoes". Med Sci Sports Exerc. 45 (7): 13638. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182874769. PMID 23439417.
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- www.vibram.com — (official site)