Vibram S.p.A. is an Italian company based in Albizzate 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. Vibram soles were first used on mountaineering boots, replacing leather soles fitted with hobnails or steel cleats, commonly used up until then.
The soles produced by Vibram are called Vibram soles, Vibram rubber, or simply Vibram.
In 1935, the deaths of six of Bramani's mountaineering friends in the Italian Alps 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 tread design called the "Carrarmato" (~ "tank tread"), with the financial backing of Leopoldo Pirelli of Pirelli tires.
The sole was designed to provide excellent traction on the widest range of surfaces, have a high degree of abrasion resistance, and was made using the latest vulcanized rubber of the time. In 1954, the first successful ascent to the summit of K2 was made by an Italian expedition wearing Vibram rubber on their soles.
Today, Vibram soles are manufactured in Brazil, China, Italy and the United States, and are used by more than 1,000 footwear manufacturers in their footwear products. Vibram is well known for pioneering the barefoot running movement with the FiveFingers line of shoes, that 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. Although the brand is best known among the outdoor and mountaineering community, Vibram produces numerous models of soles specifically designed for fashion, military, rescue, law enforcement or industrial use. Vibram also produces soles used exclusively for footwear resoling.
Vibram also produces a line of disc golf discs. They have released several putters and fairway drivers. Vibram soles were also used as a product placement for Bee Movie, which was released in 2007.
In April 2012, a lawsuit was filed against Vibram, over claims made about their Vibram FiveFingers minimalist shoe. Vibram claimed that the shoe "reduce[s] foot injuries and strengthen[s] foot muscles." A controlled study published in 2013 showed that the risk of bone marrow edema among new wearers was actually increased during the period of transition to minimalist shoes.
While Vibram has "expressly" denied "any actual or potential fault…or liability,” on May 7, 2014 it was announced that company has 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.