Vibram FiveFingers Bikila EVO Review
The original Vibram FiveFingers Bikila model was released in the Spring of 2010 in conjunction with the Boston Marathon, and has long been the workhorse of Vibram?s running stable. The Bikila LS was introduced a year later and was among the first models to include a speed lacing system that is now popular on many Vibram FiveFinger (VFF) models.
For 2014, Vibram has completely revamped the trusty Bikila and has named it the Bikila EVO, which I assume stands for Evolution. The Bikila EVO now "out" for sale and is running $120 MSRP (See all 2014 Vibrams for sale here).
So how does it perform as a running shoe, and how does it compare to the original Bikila? Read on to find out.
Construction & Overview
Let?s start with a quick overview of the construction of the Bikila EVO. The upper is a soft polyester mesh held together with thicker pieces of support fabric. The midsole is the standard EVA foam found throughout the VFF lineup, and the outsole is made of a hard rubber. The upper is solidly assembled and doesn?t have any noticeable seams on the interior that could potentially irritate the skin. The speed lacing system is exactly the same as you find on the current Spyridon LS and KMD Sport LS. The tongue is thin, with just the slightest hint of cushioning and is unattached to the upper along its sides.
Take a spin around the shoes:
The sole is made of a hard rubber, which feels to be much harder than the current Bikila, SeeYa or El-X soles. The soles on those models have a somewhat soft and tacky feel to them, whereas the rubber on the new EVO is not nearly as supple and is closer in feel to the TrekSport or Speed XC soles. It?s much harder than the original Bikila sole, which may help with durability. (See what 750 miles will do to a pair of Bikilas)
Weight-wise they fall somewhere in the middle of the VFF lineup. A Men?s 43 is 5.07oz and a Women?s 38 is 4.23oz per shoe. While we?re talking specs, the sole thickness of the Bikila EVO is 8.5mm (2.5mm rubber / 4mm EVA / 2mm insole). For comparison, the original Bikila and Bikila LS were around 7mm of sole thickness.
The color scheme options for the Bikila EVO goes along with current athletic apparel trend of ?really-bright-neon-colors? and are the brightest models in the VFF catalog for 2014. The black/yellow scheme reviewed here are positively subdued when compared to some of the other intense options available:
Above are both the men's and women's colorways for the Bikila EVO
The EVO is pretty standard FiveFingers stuff in the design, especially in the front half—there are no surprises here. Once you get back to the heel though, there is a dramatic swooping cut right below the ankle bone. It?s similar to what you see on the SeeYa or EL-X in terms of how high the upper comes up, but the lowest point of the swoop sits further back towards the heel. This helps with getting the EVO on and off your foot, but it makes for a rather insecure feeling of fit. The first couple times I put them on, I had to ask myself if they were really on all the way. It feels like my heel is overexposed and on some surfaces like carpet or grass I can slide my heel around in the heel cup laterally to the point that the EVOs almost come out. I prefer my VFFs quite snug, all the way around.
There is a loop on the back of the heel to help when putting the EVOs on, but with the little coverage in the back, I didn?t have to use it ever. My tip for properly seating your foot in the shoe is after getting each toe settled in its proper pocket, give the tongue a good hard yank before tightening down the lacing system.
Like any of the LS versions of VFFs, the lacing system works well to fine tune the fit over the top of the foot, but for the EVO I really wish I had more adjustment in the back. (Does anyone remember all the straps on the original Sprints model) The sizing is pretty standard, so go with what you?ve worn in the past on other models since you won?t need to compensate either way to size up or down. First time VFF buyers may have to experiment with a couple different sizes to see what they like before settling on a size.
Let?s start with the official take from Vibram?s marketing materials:
Medium distance running in a minimalist shoe can be challenging for new minimalist users. It takes time for your foot to adjust to an increasingly thinner level of sole. The Bikila EVO is a fully redesigned shoe built for those looking for a shoe that gives the benefits of going barefoot and that has slightly more cushion to offer more support on a medium distance road run. It is still thin, and gives you just a bit more so you can be confident making the switch.
Okay, so it?s true that the EVO has a bit more cushion than the original (8.5mm compared to 7mm), but I think that at this point it?s really splitting hairs, especially as the shoe wears in. Anyone who starts running in VFFs is going to need to take things slow at first as their body gets used to the change.
Vibram does make the point that EVO is meant for road running and I completely agree. This shoe is meant for running on a nice level surface?off-road trail running, or even running on grass where you are making lots of lateral cuts back and forth (think Ultimate Frisbee) would either give you blisters from your heel moving around in the heel cup, or worse, I could see the EVO possibly falling off. Running on the track, asphalt or sidewalk are just fine and I never had any problems with blisters or hot spots, but I also never did much lateral movement.
Flexibility of the sole is on par with the original Bikila, which is less flexible than the SeeYa or El-X but much more flexible than the TrekSport, Spyridon or Speed XC models. Likewise, ground feel is more muted than the more minimalist SeeYa or El-X, but has considerable more feel than the TrekSport, Spyridon or Speed XC. I wouldn?t recommend handling pebbles or small pieces of gravel in the EVO in the same way you could manage them with the more rugged VFF models.
Justin made the following points about the Bikila EVO sole back in August when we first learned about it:
I think the trade off with the Bikila EVO having an EVA primary platform/midsole is that it reduces the total possible footprint of the shoe under load--best explained by comparison--look at the KSO and how it has rubber that wraps up the side of the foot on either side of the widest part. Under load, some of this rubber flattens out (See this post). By contrast, the Bikila EVO can't do that.
My recommendation is to stick to the road in the EVOs, where you don?t need as much of a footprint to get good traction.
How does the EVO compare to the original Bikila?
I am a huge fan of the original Bikila, which was my primary running shoe until the SeeYa debuted a couple years back. There is more cushion and less ground feel in the EVO due to the thicker, harder rubber. I don?t think the upper, particularly in the heel fits nearly as well, and that?s too bad because the ultra-minimalist fit works better with the SeeYa or El-X. The new Bikila is most definitely an evolution, but not necessarily a revolution. In fact, I would goes as far as to say that the new design of the EVO is completely unrecognizable as a Bikila series shoe.
Should you get a pair?
I think the Bikila EVO would work well for the casual runner who primarily stays on the road and sidewalks. You won?t want to throw too much rugged terrain at the EVO, as there are plenty of other VFF models better suited for that. For activities like weightlifting the EVO works great?I feel plenty comfortable with some of the heavier lifts like deadlifts or squats which benefit by having a solid connection with the ground.
It?s also important to note that the EVO are very breathable, like most of the VFF running lineup, and are not particularly great for keeping feet warm while running outdoors in the winter. It?s definitely a summer-weight shoe.
Unless you particularly like bright shoes for everyday use, you probably aren?t going to wear these casually around town?even with the black pair, the neon laces jump out. But if you do wear them with street clothes, make sure that have long enough pants or else you?ll be flashing plenty of skin or sock as the EVO leaves lots of exposed heel!
Conclusion / Considerations
Are you just getting into minimalist running? These will work well, but remember to start slow when doing something new!
Do you like the VFF speed lace system? No more Velcro strap option!
Are bright colors your thing and do you want people to notice your feet even more than usual? You?ve got plenty of colorways to make your eyeballs bleed!
Do you mostly run on the road or sidewalk? The EVO is not a trail shoe.
Are you planning on playing Ultimate Frisbee or doing side to side speedwork? The EVO probably won?t work?you?ll want something more securely fitting.
Would you use these for hitting the gym? The Bikila EVO is a perfectly respectable weightlifting shoe.