Barefoot Shoes

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…

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!

Tripp gets ready for his Head To Head, er, Foot To Foot Comparison

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.

Tripp’s Classic mod eliminates rubbing on his Achilles tendon.

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!

By Britt

Hailing from College Station, Texas (Home to Texas A&M!), I grew up running cross country. Believe it or not, I gave Justin the name for this site back in early 2009 but I didn't jump on the toe shoes bandwagon until a year later. I am also really into quadcopters and drones and have a blog called

25 replies on “Vibram Five Fingers Smackdown, Classics vs. Bikilas [Review]”

i kinda miss my sprints more than my bikila’s and especially the much loved kso’s, way too tight. the only problem i had with the sprints, other than the torn toe, was i slid easily even fell a few times. no such problem with the bikila’s.

Have to disagree on the style comment. Nothing screams elegance like a nice pair of black Classics, appropriate for any situation!

Care to detail your Classic mod? Looks like you split the rubber from the fabric on the Achilles part and cut down the rubber while leaving the fabric intact. Am I right?

My Classics also give me trouble in that area and I’d like to solve it. I like the look of this.

did you size down for your bikilas? i ask because I am ordering some online from china, where i wont be able to test the fit first. i wear a 43 in the classics, and have been told to go to a 42 for the bikilas. did you think this is the right move?

James, the mod was fairly simple. I used a razor blade and cut a straight, horizontal line about 2 inches from the top of that black tab that runs up the achilles. (I used the drawstring as a guide, and cut about 1/2 inch above it.) I had to be careful, though, not to cut all the way through the fabric because I still wanted to maintain the integrity of the shoe. Plus I thought I should keep the fabric in place for comfort, since, without it, the drawstring would cut into my tendon.

From there, I used the razor blade to carefully peel away the glue holding the fabric on the rubber. After about 10 minutes per shoe, the rubber came off and I was ready to roll. Hope that helps!

Jarryd, I did size down for the Bikilas, per the direction on the Vibram site. I think it’s the right move if only to get the closest fit possible without being uncomfortable.

That said, though, if you have any toe comfort issues at all, the safe bet might be to go with the same size you wear in the classics. The only place where I ever feel anything close to discomfort in the Bikilas is in the toe pockets.

Obviously, “your mileage may vary”….


My first pair of Vibrams was the Bikilas, in which I am a size 42. It’s a great fit for me. As directed by the chart I ordered 43’s when I got a pair of Classics, but they feel way too big. When I push my heels all the way back, there’s about a half inch of space in the each toe pocket. You might find that sizing down in the Bikilas makes them too small if 43 is a good fit for you.

Great impressions Tripp! I own the Classics and am still deciding if the Bikilas or KSOs will be my next VFF purchase. This post is great for me in that you did a side-by-side with the VFF I’m leaning towards. Again, this helps in my decision process and good luck to your future running technique in either product.

Thanks for this post. I love the classics and I run in dirt mostly with them so I was considering buying the bikilas… after reading this, I figure I will stick to my beloved Classics for a while! 😉

I walk and work in classics, I alternate runs in kso and bikilas and love them all. I prefer the barefoot kso feel. I have to concentrate on not heel striking with bikilias by leaning a bit into my stride. My next pair of classics will be one size down from the recommended size. BTW this is a 67 year old male whose been a recreational runner for 40+ yaron.

I wear a size 40 on my kso’s and I bought my bikilas the same size. The runs on them felt great but a lil too snug for me in the toe area. So I am ordering them a size bigger(41) hopefully that will do the trick

I own the KSO and the Classic but always seem to grab the Classic for my runs and hikes since it is so easy to put on and I like the close to barefoot feel over the KSO. I was really curious though about the Bikilas and how they would compare for running so wanted to say that I really appreciate your review!

On the Bikila in the first picture, is that a Nike+ transmitter pouch? Or some other sort of pacing transmitter pouch? If so where did you get it and how well does it work. At the moment I’ve simply been slipping my transmitter inside the Bikila on top of my foot just behind the little toes. I forget it’s there after awhile, but it looks as if you might have a better solution. Thanks.

I have a pair of classics and bikilas as well, but my experience was that the toes in the Bikilas were actually bigger then my classics. They fit nicely in the classics, but they seem to slide around in the Bikilas.

I appreciate your review and your experience with the Classics and the Bikila’s. I did a size test at a local store here in the area “Black Creek Outfitters” and I tried on a pair of KSO’s and they felt great, however the store didn’t have my size (44) and the rep also suggested I come back in August for the Bikila’s. I went onto the “City Sports” website via Birthday Shoes at 2am EST this morning and purchased a pair of the gray and red Bikila’s in size (44). I cannot wait to experience these shoes. I have been told that I’m flat footed my doctor and I now have to wear orthotics which I HATE!!!! I hope these Bikila’s go over well at my unit since I’m in the Army. I can’t wait until these arrive in the mail and code BIRTHDAY did work for me 🙂

I really like my new Bikilas after putting a little over 300 miles on my KSO’s before I wore a hole in the big toe sole. Couldn’t get tire/tube patches to stick for more than about 8 miles so time to buy new shoes.

The Bikilas are absolutely awesome.

I have high arches however and the velcro strap absolutely sucks!

I actually went up a size from 44’s (KSO) to 45 in Bikilas.

I haven’t counted up the miles on the bikilas yet, probably 30-40, but I am very very tempted to cut the stupid velcro strap completely off. I slide my feet into my shoes and then arch my foot up on my toes to put my arch at maximum, then I loosely strap the velcro at that exaggerated level.

Love the tread on the bikilas, much nicer, better feel than my Treks.

I have a pair of red ones and the red does tend to stain my injinji toe socks, turning them pinkish.

Also, I’m noticing that after just 30 miles or so, the rubber on the Bikilas is already separating from the shoe. 🙁

I need to contact Vibram and see about a possible replacement or recommendation for fixing the sole. They shouldn’t be falling apart after just a couple weeks worth of running.

hi, is that a Nike+ sensor on your Bikila? did you have to do a lot of calibration? my Nike+ sensor reading is at least 50% faster than actual

My Bikila order hasn’t arrived yet but I did get the Performa and I LOVE it. They are based on the same foot shape so sizing comments should be somewhat useful for the Bikila. But, it is possible that the leather material makes it more comfortable than the synthetic.

The original 4 models were quite long in the toes (except the big toe). That makes them a better fit for most men. It would have been helpful if they made the women’s models with slightly shorter toes. Certainly too tight in the toe is a problem, but too long in the toe means that the end of the toe catches on the ground as you walk. These new models are great for women and also for men with medium length toes. Longer toed folks still might prefer the classic, sprint, KSO, or flow.

@Curtis and @Andrew, yes, that is a Nike+ sensor, affixed to the velcro strap with a clever pocket made by Nathan (

In fact, I’ve had a hard time getting the sensor to calibrate to the Bikilas. (At one point it had me running at a 5:50 pace. Seriously?? Maybe a 1K….)

Curtis, I’m actually considering reverting to the sensor inside the top of the shoe, as I did it with the Classics. The sensor isn’t jostling around in the pocket, but I have to think that there’s something about the position closer to the top of the foot that’s making the sensor think we’re going faster than we are.

Thanks in advance for any other suggestions from Nike+VFF fans.

After owning and loving my KSOs since February, I bought a pair of Bikilas last month. After only 2 weeks and about 50 miles, the fabric began to separate from the sole. I returned them to Garry Gribbles Running Sports and they credited my credit card but where unable to replace them due to lack of inventory. In fact, they were not able to size me (42) in any other Vibram due to lack of inventory. What I found interesting is that the salesperson told me that they had multiple Bikilas returned for the same issue. Has anyone else experienced this fabric separation? I was able to go to the only other retailer in Kansas City that carries Vibrams and purchased a very cool looking pair of red Sprints. Unfortunately, Vibram did not role out the Bikila to the other retailer. I would like to try the Bikilas again once I am sure this problem has been corrected.

@Deadhead Runner I am experiencing the same separation issues with my Bikilas. It’s not bad enough to where it effects the shoe but I’m keeping an eye on it. From what I’ve read this appears to be a common issue with the Bikila.

@ Tripp
I’ve been running with the Nike+ sensor affixed to the upper straps in Sprints and KSO Treks and the estimated run distances are usually very accurate. In contrast, the instant paces are very inconsistent and fluctuate all the time. This seems not be a problem caused by wearing the sensor affixed to the upper, I’ve found in other forums other runners wearing with Nike+ specially designed Nike snickers with sole sockets with the same complaint.
I guess your were referring to the pace, since 5min 50sec is an acceptable pace per mile but very poor per kilometer while it seems you usually refer to distances in kilometers (1K).

I suggest ignoring the pace, to check the accuracy of the device just run a known distance, there are a number of circuits with route markers and anyway, there’s no need to know the distance up to the meter since the Nike+ device default calibration doesn’t warranty more than 90% accuracy.

At greater length on the same topic, I tried affixing the sensor above my ankle to run on dry sand, a tight attachment using a Velcro strap al around the narrowest part of the leg. Not sure if the distance run was reliable because I didn’t have any references. The soft landing on sand will probably be sensed by the accelerometer rather differently. I also tried running with the sensor affixed to the upper strap and I couldn’t find a grate difference in pace (BTY, running in Sprints on sand can be very uncomfortable, ending up with more sand than flesh in the toe pockets. I then tried affixing the sensor the same way to run a known distance on a hard track and the result got short, 2.7km rather than the 5km of the real distance.

I’m inclined to think that it is mainly due to the vertical position of the sensor while attached to my ankle, but it also could be caused by the extra compliance of the leg at that point at landing or taking off compared to the foot arch (or the sole in the case of Nike+ sneakers.)

Would the Bikilas be ok for an all around shoe including running. I’m a freshman and what to use these as my main shoe

Thanks for the review!!! And the mod on the classics to help the achilles – please explain further cause this may help me when i get the olympic classics 🙂 thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *