Women's Vibram Five Fingers Bikila Review
Guest Post by Lindsey
Adding to the Collection
The Bikila has already gotten a fair amount of attention from Birthday Shoes, but when asked to give a woman's perspective on this new model, I was happy to oblige. I am by no means an experienced runner. I usually average about three miles on my regular runs, with my "long" (relative term!) runs going just over four. I am sure there are many more experienced female runners reading this entry right now. But I am happy to say that with the help of the VFFs I own (Sprints, KSOs, and Bikilas) and some barefoot training, that mileage is steadily increasing, and my enjoyment of the sport is growing as well. So take this review for what it's worth and here we go!
I have been running in Vibram Five Fingers exclusively since the beginning of May (and occasionally since November 2009). When I heard about the release of the new Bikila, I was intrigued. Part of me loved the look and idea behind this shoe, while the other part of me was a bit confused as to its seemingly increased bulk. But bottom line was, I was looking for a shoe that would help me transition back onto harder surfaces like pavement and concrete. I had run on tracks with my Sprints for awhile, but feared harder surfaces because of bad experiences in regular running shoes. I thought of the crippling shin splints I used to suffer, and knowing to take things easy in VFFs, I thought perhaps the Bikilas might be more forgiving on concrete. I took the plunge. I bought my pair of Bikilas (W40, white/green) in the beginning of June from Sheels. I had to call my local store, and of course since they were sold out, I eventually went through a Sheels in Nevada to finally obtain the Bikilas.
I took the Bikilas out of the box, and immediately thought "wow, these things look fast!" I put them on and moved around the house a bit. I noticed that the pod design on the bottom of the shoe did give a different feel than my minimal Sprints. It took some getting used to, but the new shoe infatuation had certainly set in. I took them on vacation with me the next day, eager to eventually try them on a run. When I finally did, it was on a local rubberized running track. Unfortunately, my first experience in the Bikilas was not exactly stellar. I did a little over two miles in them that day, but found that on that highly rubberized surface, that the ground feel was much more muffled than the Sprints. I also felt like the Bikilas got "stuck" on that surface. They seemed hot, noticeably heavier than the Sprints, and running that day seemed to require more effort. I put them away, conceding that they might perform much better on a smoother, harder surface. The Sprints got the rest of the running time on that trip.
Once I returned home, I made myself try the Bikilas again, this time on a smoother, somewhat harder indoor running track. This time I was pleasantly surprised! I used them for my speed work that day. My initial 1.5 mile warm up went well, as I focused on light, quick steps and lifting my feet rather than pushing off. I used that time to focus on technique rather than what I was wearing, and it worked well. Afterward, I did several sprints and recoveries over the next 1.75 miles. There were times that I felt like I was absolutely FLYING in the Bikilas! Like my feet weren't even touching the ground. I've had that feeling in the Sprints as well, but here I think the Bikilas pods on the tread helped disperse some of the impact and make the ride a little smoother. Since then I've used the Bikilas a couple more times, mainly for speed work, but also for an easy run. In terms of ground feel, there is less than in something like the Sprint or even the KSO. But ultimately I don't find this to affect my form at all. If anything, I think they strike a nice balance between protection and feel.
Fit, Feel and Care
I have had no issues regarding fit. As far as sizing goes, I wear a W40 in Bikilas, a W40 in KSOs, and a W40 in Sprints. My other (running) pair of Sprints is actually W41 - a little roomy, but they work great. The cut of the top of the Bikila allows for easier entry for the foot, much easier than the KSO. I thought perhaps I would have issues on the right foot regarding that top part of the shoe pressing against the instep, but thus far there have been no problems. If anything, that shoe seems to have loosened up a bit, and has never affected me on my run.
Are the Biks my favorite VFF? No. The Sprints still maintain their position at the top of my list. I love that they're so light, flexible, and offer such great feedback without sacrificing security on my foot. I do whatever running I can in the Sprints (most easy and long runs), saving the speed work for the Bikilas. I've read testimonies from other Bikila owners, runners with much more mileage than I, stating that the Bikila is better on longer runs than say, the Classic or perhaps the Sprint. I can believe that. I suspect as my long runs get longer, I'll be using the Bikilas for those to save my feet a little bit. We shall see.
The pros of the Bikila are its improved traction given it's pod tread design, and the seamless, softer liner. Wearing the Bikilas is like slipping on a pair of socks, in a way. They are very comfortable on the foot. The material on top is very stretchy and also very comfortable. One might wonder, though, if it's durable or not. Cons include the reduced ground feedback, weight, and known quality control issues. It seems that a fair share of Bikilas have suffered toe failure - the glue holding the fabric to the shell of the toe failed, thus separating the fabric. For this reason I don't think I'll be machine washing my pair, and will instead hand wash them with gentle detergent. Thus far I've not seen any issues with my pair.
The Bikila is certainly an excellent shoe, one that appears to be very versatile (perhaps more versatile than many people thought). It is yet another great addition to the VFF line up, one that was cleverly designed and well thought out regarding its performance. Whether a casual runner or someone training for a marathon, the Bikila could fit your needs, depending on your preferences. I don't use mine as much as other models I own, but am certainly glad I bought the Bikilas. They give me options, which I believe was their original intent.
Photos of Lindsey and her Vibram Five Fingers Bikilas:
About the author —
Recently, Lindsey shared her collection of Vibram Five Fingers with us and reviewed the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 racing flat. She will soon be going through Officer Training School for the U.S. Air Force. Good luck and thanks for another great review Lindsey!
See our post on "Barefoot Running Shoes" to see where Bikilas fall on our Barefoot Running Shoes Continuum.