Vibram Five Fingers Bikila LS [Barefoot] Toe Shoes
Rounding out the 2011 toe shoes line-up is the Vibram Five Fingers Bikila LS. You can read a full review of the Bikila LS and a vs. to the Bikila Five Fingers here. Looking to snag a pair? Buy the Bikila LS from a trusted FiveFingers retailer!
The Bikila LS' striking feature is it's off centered "speed" lacing system. Speaking of "speed," the first laced VFF was the Vibram Five Fingers Speed (detailed photo review here), but the Speed was not released in the United States. Thus, the Bikila LS is the first widely available laced VFF.
In short, a laced Five Fingers model makes an immense amount of sense because it allows for a better fit for individuals with larger, higher, and wider feet.
The 2011 Vibram Five Fingers Bikila according to Vibram's catalog
"Following in the footsteps of the original Vibram FiveFingers Bikila, the new Bikila LS offers a closed speed lace system to accommodate a wider foot or higher instep. It shares the same revolutionary platform as the Bikila, featuring a Dri-Lex covered 3mm polyurethane insole (thickest under the ball) and a 4mm anatomical pod outsole design. This combination provides superior plating protection and distributes forefoot impact without compromising essential ground feedback. The Bikila LS? upper is constructed of Coconut Active Carbon for natural breathability. An athletic padded collar and topline, 3M reflective surfaces, and abrasion resistant TPU toe protection add to Bikila LS? road worthy design. The defining feature of the Bikila LS? is its closed quick lace system assuring a custom fit for a wider range of foot types. Machine Washable, Air Dry."
A tongue-and-shoe lacing system has been a standard shoe design for a couple hundred years for good reason: it allows shoe manufacturers to produce a standard sized shoe en masse that can be custom fit to individual foot shapes and sizes. Closed-top Vibrams typically have no tongue and rely on the stretchiness of the fabric or leather to give enough to fit all feet big and small. Unfortunately, individuals with larger feet than average have often found the closed-top Five Fingers models uncomfortably tight.
The Bikila LS solves this problem for these people. In short, a laced Vibram Five Fingers model just makes sense.
So for a laced Vibram Five Fingers Bikila, how does the Bikila LS perform?
Examined strictly from the perspective of accommodating larger feet, I had my Father-in-law — a man who has super wide Flintstone feet the same length as mine — try on the Bikila LS. I was happy to see that, for once, a pair of Five Fingers on his feet didn't look ready to burst at the seams (His feet push the limits of my open-topped Classics). This is an encouraging sign.
Comparatively, my feet almost feel too small in the Bikila LS: I can cinch the speed lacing system all the way (more on this in a minute). Of course, my feet fit fine in Bikilas, KSO Treks, and KSOs, so really, I don't have much of a need for the Bikila LS.
The speed lacing system is a nice feature. It's very easy to cinch up the laces on the Bikila LS. I've never used a speed lacing system before — it's nifty. That said, I did find it harder to loosen the laces after taking them off.
The upper of the Bikila LS is made of coconut active carbon fabric like the Trek Sport. I find this fabric is comfortably stretchy and soft.
Finally, the Bikila LS features the now-familiar Achilles notch and padded ankle. All of this combines to make the Bikila LS a very comfortable shoe and a nice alternative to the standard Five Fingers Bikila.
Vibram Five Fingers Bikila vs. Bikila LS vs. Speed
In short, if I had to do a quick rundown of how the Bikila LS stacks up compared to the Bikila, I'd say it's roomier, has a more comfortable (less restrictive) upper, and doesn't look as showy as the standard Bikila. It's upper is more subdued, and all the color combinations being offered are uncharacteristically tame (for toe shoes, anyway). I think if you've got larger (vertically) feet, the Bikila LS may be just what you've been waiting for. That is, unless you'd rather have the Speed.
Compared to the fashionably retro-styled Five Fingers Speed (pic), the Bikila LS looks functional and simple — perhaps a bit plain. That said, I'd much sooner go for a run in the Bikila LS than the Speed for the same reason: I like the Speed for knocking about casually. It's also worth noting that the Speed fits more snugly than the Bikila LS (at least this as far as the Bikila LS pre-production model I have is concerned).
So that's the Vibram Five Fingers Bikila LS. Did I miss anything? What say you? Sound off in the comments here!
Photos of the Vibram Five Fingers Bikila LS in black, men's version
This color will also be available for women.
Photos of the women's Vibram Five Fingers Bikila LS in grey and blue:
The 2011 Vibram Five Fingers line-up (links will go live as the pages are up this week!)