From Vibram to Vibram FiveFingers®
For more than 75 years Vibram has maintained its role of world leader in marketing and producing high-performance rubber soles, destined for outdoor, work, free time, fashion, mending and orthopedy markets. The unmistakable yellow octagon, that identifies the brand which is known all around the globe, is the symbol of a company which is synonym with quality, performance, safety, innovation and design. This is how Vitale Bramani, member of the Italian Alpine Club, had the great intuition of using the technique developed by Pirelli, the car-tyre manufacturer, also for shoes. As a matter of fact, applying rubber under his mountaineering boots, Bramani had the first sole made of vulcanized rubber, thus inventing the shoe sole which revolutionised the world of mountaineering.
This sport was practiced only by a small amount of people which wore rudimental wooden clogs at the beginning of last century. Then the so called “tricounis” were created, which were the first true mountaineering shoes provided with metallic cleats. On the one hand their use improved a lot the movements on ice, but they revealed themselves to be dangerous for rock climbing. At this point in history, in 1937 the “first Vibram evolution” took place: Vitale Bramani (Vi-Bram, name born by the acronym of its inventor) invented the “Carrarmato” (literally: "tank tread"), that is the first rubber sole realized specifically for mountaneering, which changed this sport dramatically. Thanks to this outstanding innovation, Vibram® built itself fame and reputation at international level with its great commitment to develope a range of highly performant products, suitable for various sports.
By gaining a long experience and a unique know-how, the company has thus become the indisputed leader of technologically-developed soles for a wide range of shoes offering high performances, the maximum level of comfort and quality which endure in time. This is also granted by the rigorous tests which are carried out in laboratory and at Vibram®Tester Team ground. The second revolution, which is the example of the constant commitment in research and development of innovative solutions, is the birth of Vibram FiveFingers®.
It was 2001 when industrial designer Robert Fliri proposed the idea of Vibram FiveFingers® to Marco Bramani, grandson of Vibram® founder Vitale Bramani, who immediately embraced the concept. In 2004 the patent was filed and in 2005 Vibram FiveFingers® started being widely commercialized. Soon Fliri arrived at Vibram® and started to work with a team of experts and engineers who helped him to redefine and realize his idea. From the original concept a collection of shoes especially created for barefoot were born and simply known as Vibram FiveFingers®. This is how the new minimalism footwear was born, directly inspired by the barefoot phenomenon, the practice of walking with uncovered feet. Here comes the main characteristic of this extraordinary shoe: the sole with five fingers made of Vibram® rubber, which, as a flexible glove, helps the natural articulation of the foot stimulating muscles of the lower limbs and therefore gives a higher sense of well-being to the whole body.
Another important leg in the continuous development and improvement of the Varese-based company took place in 2009, when the Vibram® Technology Center opened. The Technology Center is based in Guangzhou, the biggest city of the South Chinese coast. Vibram® VTC spreads over a total area of 41,000 mq, where every structures has its own functions and aims. More or less 1,800 mq are dedicated to the R&D area, where research and development are the main characters of Vibram® offer. On the other hand more than 4,000 mq are destined to industrialization and prototypation in a structure which is equipped just like a plant where there are flexible warehouses, industrial services and equipment to sample products finished or in the pre-production phase.
One of the most innovative areas of Vibram® VTC is The Performing Test Center. The Centre stretches on a 1,200 mq surface distributed on two floors and all the area is completely dedicated to tests. Here Vibram® products, among which the new Vibram® FiveFingers® are deeply tested to guarantee their quality both in lab and “live”. As a matter of fact, inside PTC all the different weather conditions (snow, water, asphalt, smooth and rough surfaces) are present in order to to perform all development and comparative tests. The great technical potentials of Vibram® FiveFingers® were born and continue to consolidate in this incredible structure which is the absolute guarantee of success, performances and quality. Technology, improvement and innovation combine to create such a potential of exclusive prestige for Vibram® FiveFingers® that the shoes are an exclusive product, unique in their genre.