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    Xero Shoes - Barefoot Running Sandals

The 2011 Vibram Five Fingers Komodo Sport, Bikila LS (Laces!), and Jaya

The 2011 Vibram Five Fingers new toe shoes: Kids KSOs, Jaya, Jaya LR, Komodo Sport and Bikila LS!
The 2011 Vibram Five Fingers new toe shoes: Kids KSOs, Jaya, Jaya LR, Komodo Sport and Bikila LS!

Last week was the 2011 Outdoor Retailer conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. Word has it—from various sources who scoured the booths—that the whole place was buzzing with talk about minimalist footwear. We recently heard about Merrell Barefoot and the New Balance Minimus (plus the aptly named Skin ... I mean, Inov-8 EvoSkin) — apparently other big names may also be working on their entries into the minimalist footwear fray. Stay tuned.

What's particularly exciting for us Vibram Five Fingers fans is that Vibram was showing off their 2011 line; specifically, the new fitness-oriented Vibram Five Fingers Komodo Sport; the larger-foot-friendly Five Fingers Bikila LS (It's got laces!); and the women's only lightweight fitness toe shoes, the Five Fingers Jaya and Jaya LR (Jaya with some leather).

Though Vibram wasn't letting anyone take photos at their booth at OR, I'm excited to share with everyone a sneak peak we're getting here at Birthday Shoes of this 2011 line-up. I've gotten my feet into some of the new 2011 models — sales samples / pre-production versions (also the women's models!). By extension, this week, I'll be posting tons of photos of these new 2011 models as well as some initial thoughts on them. As each goes up, you will be able to click through below to an information page (For now, you can click the other images to see big stock photos).

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The Boilermaker, Bikilas and Beer...a winning combination

The Boilermaker, Bikilas and Beer...a winning combination

Ryan runs in Vibram Five Fingers and says they, "simply made running fun again." He sent us a recap of his recent participation in "the nation’s biggest 15K road race."

Race Recap

This past weekend I took part in the nation’s biggest 15K road race - The Boilermaker - which is held in my hometown of Utica, NY. It was my 4th time running but my 1st time competing in Vibram Five Fingers. I’ve been practically living in my pair of KSOs since I purchased them in May of 2009 (well, at least when there wasn’t a foot of snow on the ground) and started my training for the 15K in them over the winter.

While I loved running in the KSOs, I was fortunate to snag a new pair of Bikilas in May. This changed everything. The Bikilas were even more comfortable than the KSOs and training was a blast in them. They provided a minimal layer of padding to help with the repeated impact of the pavement over 15K while still giving me the barefoot feel and flexibility.

This year’s Boilermaker was the largest in history with over 13,000 runners and an enormous post-race party at the Saranac Brewery (I can’t think of another road race where you get a free beer immediately after running it). The amount of spectators was also amazing and they really kept you going throughout the different sections of the course with water, music, and yes, even vuvuzelas.

I also noticed some other fellow VFF runners while at the starting gate as well as a one runner who was completely barefoot. The race itself was perfect this year from the temperature to a ton of volunteers who made sure the weekend’s events were memorable for both the runners and the spectators. It’s a weekend where our community really comes together and makes you proud to be a participant. As I crossed the finish I also broken my own personal best time, finishing in 1:20:08.

Lots of the discussion around barefoot running (and running in VFFs) has to do with running form and injury prevention. While these are all great benefits to leaving your sneakers behind, that’s not why I love them. For me, the tactile experience and flexibility simply made running fun again for me. It made me want to challenge myself, work hills, run for time and most importantly get out there and put some miles on. This was the first year I can remember enjoying my training regiment and consequently worked harder up to the race.

Combine that preparedness with the spectacle that is the Boilermaker and you have the perfect combination of competition and celebration. I can’t wait for the next 15K!

Thanks for sending us your story Ryan! Good luck on next year's race.

Close Up Review: Vibram Five Fingers Trek Sport

Close Up Review: Vibram Five Fingers Trek Sport
Vibram Five Fingers Black Trek Sports

Why Trek Sports?

Being the new kid (geriatric new kid, that is!) on the Birthday Shoes block, I only own two pair of Vibram Five Fingers, the Classics and Bikilas. My Classics don't get a lot of wear except as an occasional flip flop alternative (Justin's preferred use of Classic Vibrams) and my Bikilas are my "go to" running shoe. Though I dig the barefoot feel they give me, the Bikilas hurt my sensitive feet on the rocky trails around here—at least that was the excuse to convince my wife I needed another pair!

Since I don't own any "KSO type" Five Fingers, I only know what I have seen on the internet. I pictured the black KSOs as the alpha male, ninja, gorilla foot model. Honestly, I wasn't sure if I could pull it off. But, when I saw the Vibram marketing photos of the Trek Sports, they looked so cool and sleek. I manned up and ordered a pair (via CitySports). I ordered a size 41, the same as my others. They arrived quickly and in good order from CitySports shipped free using my "BIRTHDAY" shipping code.

I expected the Trek Sports to be somewhat bulky, but in fact, they weigh almost exactly the same as my Bikilas. And they are sleek, though perhaps not as sleek as in the Vibram marketing photo. I think they must stuff them with tissue paper or something. Also, mine arrived with a silver strap, which is different from the black one in Vibram's pic. Perhaps a little less Ninja, but now I can wear them to church with grey slacks!

My review and a zoomable flash movie after the jump!

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Women's Vibram Five Fingers Bikila Review

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.

First Impressions

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Black KSOs on Buzzards Rock Trail

Buzzard Rock Trail
The entrance to Buzzard Rock Trail in Baltimore County, Md.

Aaron recently broke away from the daily grind and got some time to himself in the Patapsco Valley State Park on Buzzards Rock Trail. It was just him and his black KSOs and here is his story:

by Aaron

My first real trail experience in VFF’s is about to begin.

I was very excited to get out on the trail for many reasons. First, I had not had a real hike in a few years. I kept wanting to, but with a wife and baby (he will be two August 23rd), I have found that a full day to tromp around in the woods is a tall order. I teach special education & work part time at an outdoor store. So between two jobs, taking care of Eli and trying to avoid housework, I have my hands pretty full.

I finally decided the time had come to get outside. I slapped on my black KSO’s, jumped in the car, put the top down*, and headed to Buzzards Rock Trail.

I was grinning ear to ear as I stepped on the cool soft dirt trail. I was connected to the environment in a very deep way. All of the sights, sounds, and smells I had been away from for so long were right there where I left them.

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