Vibram Five Finger Bikila Review

Posted: September 9, 2011 in Barefoot, Fitness, Health, Life, Reviews, Running, Shoes
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Side and bottom view of the Blue/White Bikila

Today I’d like to discuss my second pair of Vibram Five Fingers. They are the blue/white Bikilas. They are the first shoe that was ever desgined by vibram to be a running shoe. The Bikilas were actually my very first pair of Vibram, but they quickly fell behind the KSO for reasons I’ll mention below.

Lets get the brass tacks out of the way first. When it comes to minimalist shoes the first question on everyone’s mind is the groundfeel. Obviously the groundfeel deals solely with the sole (Bahziiing). The Bikila sole is thicker than that of the KSO/classic/sprint models. As such, the corresponding groundfeel is less than what you would have with the other models. This seems to be a trend of  Vibram. I believe this is a step in the wrong direction. Many of the new models are using this sole, and are also adding in a thicker insole. This confuses me, and it is something that makes me want to shy away from Vibram for the time being. *HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU VIBRAM. WE LOVED YOUR GROUNDFEEL, DON’T ROB US OF THAT TO CATER TO THE MAINSTREAM.

Anyway, the Bikila sole is the first of the newer generations of the Vibram Five

Great view of the "PODS" soling. I wish they'd stuck with the thin siped sole.

Fingers to feature the pod like sole. This sole isn’t razor siped like you would find on the traditional classic/sprint/KSO models. Instead it’s got these pods with a seriously aggressive tread pattern. As far as the pods are concerned, there have been reports of them becoming separated (ie peeling) away from the rest of the sole without prolonged use. This gives rise to questionable craftsmanship that I hope is addressed in later batches. I will say that with over 50 miles on my Bikilas there is no real sign of wear and tear on the sole. There is a part of the sole that troubles me. It’s the white EVA section that covers the arch of the foot. While it doesn’t provide any support, it does press up against my arch, and, at first, bothered me. I’ve since learned to ignore it, but if I go a few weeks without wearing them, it annoys me when wearing them the first few times. Again, that’s just personal preference, but it is something I would look to avoid in the future

Let’s have a look at the aesthetics shall we?

I chose the blue/white Bikilas and I think they look pretty sharp. They, at the time of their production, look the most like a traditional running shoe. This is aided by the bright patterns, reflective stripping, and the sculpted heel cup. I think the shoe is aesthetically pleasing, but that’s just opinion not rock solid fact. Some folks hate the flashy design while others love it. So, if you are afraid of attention for your VFF, perhaps this model isn’t for you. One change that I liked over the KSO is the heel cup. This heel cup feels like smooth silk on the back of your heel, and if you are new to the toe shoe world, the heel cup will remind you of a traditional trainer.

I don’t particularly care for the crappy velcro strap. While I understand its purpose, I absolutely despise the extra wide end of the “soft” strip on the upper. The strap doesn’t widened correspondingly at the end, and what you end up with is a bit of unused velcro bedding that sucks up dust bunnies and lint balls like it’s a job. I constantly have to pick things out of it, and it really detracts from the look of the shoe over time. I wish they had simply left it like the KSO strap. Better yet, given the tightness of the upper, they could have left the strap off and given the shoe a cleaner more minimalist look.

The upper, unlike the previous models, is seamless. While the upper has some stretch to it, it does fit extremely snug against the top of the foot. For running, this doesn’t pose much of a problem, but as a kick around shoe, it becomes stifling and uncomfortable after a while. It also doesn’t breathe very well. My feet, particularly in the Oklahoma heat, roast if I wear these shoes for any length of time. They just trap heat and make the entire experience abysmal. I would not recommend this shoe if you live in a climate with constant warm weather. However, for the Bikila is my go to shoe for cold weather running. So, I am glad to have them with fall/winter approaching.

The inside of the shoe is SUPPOSED to be seamless. I say supposed with an air of contempt. While the majority of the seams have been removed with the Bikila, they are still present and annoying in the places that count. In BOTH shoes, there is a protruding seam under my big toes, and this seam is so rough that it has caused blisters on more than one occasion. I’ve tried turning the shoe inside out and snipping them, but to no avail, they are still there. Furthermore, they don’t wear down over time. The oil from your foot doesn’t make them anymore comfortable. So, if Vibram is going to list it as a seamless inside, they need to make it SEAMLESS. This, aside from the breathing problem, is by FAR my biggest complaint. I just can’t justify spending $100 plus bucks on a shoe that causes me to have blisters. If I wanted that, I would have stuck with traditional trainers.

Conclusion:

As much as I wanted to LOVE the Bikila, I just can’t do it. I like them. They look nice, but the groundfeel is not where I would want it to be. This is entirely due to the pods on the sole. They should have stuck with the traditional sole. I do like the heel cup. The fit is much nicer than the non-structured heel of the KSO. I dislike the extra wide strap bed. No one wants to pick lint/dust/dirt etc out of velcro. It’s not fun. The major downfall of the Bikila, however, is the seams in the toe pockets. These things are ridiculously sharp. It’s like they were sewn together with fishing line instead of thread. Not a pleasant experience. It’s really no wonder that the KSO is my go to minimalist footwear for work/running. The Bikila just can’t compare  to the KSO or even to my own homemade huarches.

If you want a toe shoe with the traditional trainer look the Bikila is for you. However, if you are wanting a shoe that provides good groundfeel, comfortable fit, and breathability the Bikila should be avoided. I’m sorry Vibram, but not every shoe can be a hit.

Until next time,

Puff

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