Vibram Five Fingers Smackdown, Classics vs. Bikilas [Review]
Tripp, from Austin, was previously seen here on BirthdayShoes when he first got his Vibram Five Fingers Classics, then later when he ran a 5k in them. Recently, Tripp purchased a pair of Bikilas from City Sports and sent us a nice comparison to his Classics. Here it is, along with with an Achilles tendon mod he made to his Classics:
When I was 4 years old, my mom bought me some white canvas tennis shoes with black stripes. I put them on, took a lap around the living room and swore that they made me faster.
In the 35+ years since, I'd never again felt that way about shoes (though my first Air Jordan's surely added 3 inches to my vertical.) That is, until I tried on my Bikilas, which not only make me faster, but also make it so much fun to run.
My Bikilas arrived from City Sports on a Friday night, and first thing Saturday morning, I was taking them out for a 3 mile break in run. Wow. I won’t restate what others have observed, but the fit, finish and feel of these shoes is superb.
I was a bit concerned, at first, that the fit was too snug. I felt like my middle toe was bent while the others were right at the edge of the toe pockets. (As if I’d suddenly developed Morton’s Toe overnight.) I never felt that with my Classics.
After about a ¼ mile of running, though, I not only felt that the shoes had expanded, but they seemed to get more secure around the midfoot. (The Velcro strap is nice to have, but I haven’t felt the need to cinch it tighter at all.)
The extra millimeter or so on the sole didn’t remove the nearly-barefoot feedback that many of us appreciate from VFFs. Still, there’s no doubt I was running with a bit more abandon in the new shoes, in part because they just felt good!
Which made me want to try an experiment: what would it be like to run with a Bikila on one foot and a Classic on the other? Aside from the odd glances from others (what VFF owner hasn’t gotten used to those by now?) I thought it would be the best way to identify the strengths and shortcomings of the new shoes compared to the Classic.
Before I took a step, I noticed that the Classics were not only easier to put on (no surprise), but the toe pockets were actually longer and possibly wider. I haven’t put a ruler to them yet, but it seems that the Bikila designers may have traded length for a more secure fit, which runners would welcome.
As I ran, I realized how much of a barefoot feel the Classics provide. While I love the secure fit of the Bikilas, the Classics still provide more of a “barely there” feeling. That said, after about a mile, I could tell that the bottoms of my left foot (with the Bikila) felt stronger than the right. I would have no problem with a longer run in the Bikilas, whereas I’ve maxed out at 4 miles in the Classics.
The biggest improvement, though, is around the ankle, heel and Achilles. From Day One, my challenge with VFF’s has been the impact on these three sensitive body parts. As the picture indicates, I had to do a mod on the back of the Classics to get rid of that hard plastic thingy that was cutting into my already tender Achilles tendons. Plus, I always found the drawstring to be another source of raw skin, so I leave it as loose as possible.
None of those problems exist with the Bikilas. There is just the right amount of cushioning, support and soft fabric to keep the backs of my feet comfortable and secure in the shoe.
In the end, I am actually a little surprised at how well the Classics stand up to the newcomer to the VFF family. I’m sure I’ll wear the Bikilas as a casual shoe more often than I wear the Classics. (My wife says the ballet slipper isn’t a good look for me…) And as my rekindled affection for running develops, the Bikilas will be getting the lion’s share of the road time.But when working out, or when I want that “born free” feeling, the Classics will still be my first choice. It’s nice to have options.
Tripp, thanks for sharing your evaluation!