By Christina Cheddar Berk, CNBC.com
There's a new ugly shoe trend, and if you haven't seen it yet, chances are you will soon. Buoyed up by the popularity of barefoot running, running shoes that provide the foot with minimal support to allow for more "natural" running have gained a cult following. But now it appears that these shoes, which include brands such as Vibram's FiveFingers shoes, are being worn by consumers who aren't hardcore barefoot runners.
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They're being spotted in larger numbers at the gym, in yoga classes, at the supermarket, and even on line at Walt Disney World. And Vibram plans to bring additional styles to market this fall that aren't designed with exercise in mind, but instead for other situations such as going to office.
Sure, there have been other ugly shoe crazes in the past. Think about Ugg boots and Crocs not to mention Birkenstocks and FitFlops. But Vibram makes a claim the others don't-its FiveFingers shoes can help the wearer get back to more "natural" running and walking. Some who have worn the shoes claim they have helped alleviate back pain and other injuries.
"Vibram's product fundamentally changes how consumers think about shoes, and for that reason it's not some kind of sideshow act in the mold of Crocs classic and Shape-Ups," said Brian Sozzi, an analyst at Wall Street Strategies.