Vibram's FiveFingers Shoes: Plenty Of Critics, And Even More Sales

If everyone says your idea stinks, it must be good. That's what Vibram VP Peter Von Conta learned on the road to releasing the FiveFingers running shoe. In a new video, Conta reveals one of his biggest challenges: Shaquille O’Neal and his size 23 feet.

Editor's Note: This story contains one of our 10 Best Business Lessons of 2013. For the full list, click here.

Vibram vice president of product design Peter Von Conta met resistance during every step of the process while launching the FiveFingers running shoe, a product that nearly everyone in the shoe business thought was destined for failure. As the critiques got louder, Vibram dug in its heels and launched one of the most successful products ever created in its 75-year history.

"The worst piece of advice that I’ve ever had is someone telling me I couldn’t do something," says Von Conta. The FiveFingers were so successful that they caught the eye of NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal, who asked for a custom pair to put on his size 23 feet. Once again, Von Conta was presented with a seemingly impossible task.

Von Conta, holding Shaquille O’Neal size 23 custom shoe

But failure isn’t really an option when it comes to celebrity shoe endorsements, so the company was wary of creating experimental footwear under such unusual circumstances. Von Conta’s team went ahead with the project, and now Shaq is the proud owner of Vibram’s trendsetting footwear. That's just one of the reasons Vibram has been a runaway success.

Bottom Line: The best advice is often when people tell you not to do something.

Related:
Why Vibram Took A Flyer On Those Crazy FiveFingers Running Shoes
Knowing When Your Groundbreaking Idea Needs A Softer Touch

[Video produced by Shalini Sharma // Camera & edit by Tony Ditata]

[Image: Flickr user Leon Terra]

Add New Comment

3 Comments

  • feetfreedom

    I loved fivefingers.  I used to walk, do yard work, go to the store, etc.  I used to do everything but run :).  I had to get rid of them, because I discovered that one let was longer than the other.  Long enough that it was causing significant imbalances and pain.  I got another seminormal shaped barefoot shoe, so that I lift could be put into it.  Still miss my fivefingers though.