Vibram Fivefingers Bikila Review: Pictures and First Impressions

Vibram Fivefingers Bikila Gray Palm

I just received a review pair of Vibram Fivefingers Bikila in the mail today courtesy of Vibram and Pursuit Brand Equity Group (thanks Adam!). If you’re not familiar with the VFF Bikila, it’s a new shoe from Vibram that is designed specifically for runners. I’ve been running in Vibram Fivefingers KSO’s for almost a year, and have written extensively about my experience here on Runblogger (if you’re interested, here’s where my string of VFF posts starts). The Fivefingers are the most minimalist shoe that I run in regularly, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to take a pair of Bikilas out for a spin.

I had already done a 5 miler prior to the arrival of the UPS man with the unexpected delivery this afternoon. Needless to say, when I opened up the package and saw what was inside, I knew I wouldn’t be able to wait until tomorrow to run in them – it was going to be a double-run day!

I started by just trying them out around the house. My initial thought was that they felt very snug, almost too tight when compared to my KSO’s. I had requested a size 41, which is a size smaller than my KSO’s, mainly because I feel that there is a bit too much wiggle room in my KSO toes. The big and little toes on my left foot felt like they were a bit scrunched in the toe pockets of the Bikila, but not to the point where they were forced to bend. It was more like they filled the toe pockets completely and were in contact with the rubber at the tip (I consulted the Vibram fit page, and was reassured that having my toes “graze” the tips of the pockets was ok). I was concerned that this might lead to some friction blisters on runs, but this fear turned out to be unwarranted, at least in my first short jaunt.

The Bikilas are much more form fitting than the KSO’s, and they really kind of feel like a second skin that covers your foot. Another difference when compared to the KSO is that the Bikila has a pronounced toe spring, which is the upturning of the toes that you can see when looking at the shoe from the side. Toe spring is common in running shoes, and although some people don’t like it in a minimalist shoe, it has never really bothered me. Finally, the inside of the Bikila is very soft, and extremely comfy – these are definitely meant to be run in without socks (see interior image below).

Vibram Fivefingers Bikila Interior
Interior of the Vibram Fivefingers Bikila

I was told by my contact at PBEG that Vibram is marketing the Bikila strictly as a running shoe, and not to expect it to feel like an all day walk-around shoe like the KSO – this description is very accurate. If I’m planning to wear a pair of VFF’s out and about, I’ll opt for my KSO’s. If you’re looking to buy a pair of Fivefingers to use as an all-around walking and running shoe, the KSO might be a better choice. However, if you want a pair of Fivefingers to use strictly for running and working on form, the Bikila might be the way to go (I’ll withhold judgment for now until I put in more miles in the Bikila).

So how did they perform on the run? After getting the kids ready for bed, I grabbed Jack and headed out for a quick 2 mile run just to get a sense of how they would feel out on the road. I immediately realized that the snugness that I had initially though migh be a negative was actually a positive on the run. Because the Bikila is so much more form fitting than my KSO’s, there was almost no rubbing or friction anywhere between the shoe and my foot (I get back-of-heel blisters when I run sockless in my KSO’s, which is one of the reasons I opted to size down in the Bikila). It almost feels as if the Bikila is molded to your foot, and as it got wet with sweat, the upper material seemed to soften a bit and comfort increased even more. While running in the Bikila, I was clearly landing on the forward half of my foot, and the shoes make a cool tapping sound when contacting the ground. I’ve heard some people express disappointment with added cushioning in the Bikila, but to be honest it didn’t feel a whole lot different to me – maybe a tad more rigid. It’s hard to say much after only two miles, but if first impressions are any indication, I think I’m going to like running in this shoe. Stay tuned!

Update 7/17/10: Just posted part 2 in my review series on running in the Vibram Fivefingers Bikila.
Here are some additional picture of the Vibram Fivefingers Bikila:

Vibram Fivefingers Bikila Top View
Top view of the Vibram Fivefingers Bikila

Vibram Fivefingers Bikila Outsole
Sole view of the Vibram Fivefingers Bikila

Vibram Fivefingers Bikila Side View
Lateral view of the Vibram Fivefingers Bikila

Vibram Fivefingers Bikila Side View
Medial view of the Vibram Fivefingers Bikila. Note the pronounced toe spring.

Vibram Fivefingers Bikila and KSO
Vibram Fivefingers Bikila (top) and KSO (bottom)

Vibram Fivefingers Bikila and KSO

Vibram Fivefingers Bikila (top) and KSO (bottom)

Vibram Fivefingers Bikila and KSO
Vibram Fivefingers Bikila (left) and KSO (right). Note the toe spring (upturned toes) in the Bikila as compared to the KSO.
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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Has anyone who wears VFF Treks tried the Bikila? I’m curious, as I own KSOs and Treks (for rocky trails). How does the bottom structure compare?

    • Pete Larson says:

      Bikila is a bit thinner in the sole than the Trek, bit more cushion. I have
      the Trek Sport.

      Pete

      • Michael Hagan says:

        Pete,

        I have trek Sports. I bought them before Bikila b/c I see myself hitting more trails in the future. I am getting hot spots under forward area of both arches for anything over 3miles. Anything like this in Bikila? I go wmns 39 b/c men 40 was too big.

        • Michael Hagan says:

          Oh yeah, I did 10 miles half roads, half grass today. hot spots jack up a lot with the longer run. Bikila fit same size as your trek sports? I am thinking of returning to rei to swap for bikila. great site- thanks.

          • Pete Larson says:

            I haven’t had any issues with blistering in Bikilas. They are the same
            size, but fit in Bikilas is more snug so less friction between fabric
            and skin.

            Pete

            On Monday, February 28, 2011, Disqus

      • Michael Hagan says:

        Oh yeah, I did 10 miles half roads, half grass today. hot spots jack up a lot with the longer run. Bikila fit same size as your trek sports? I am thinking of returning to rei to swap for bikila. great site- thanks

  2. Brilliant post!Thanks for sharing these review.These running shoes is perfectly good especially if you have competition because it is design for more flexible and comfortable fit.

  3. Ultranub47 says:

    I am not sure if it is just me or the pic, but it looks like the second toe on the Bikila is a bit longer than the other VFFs. Is this a mirage from the toe spring or is there a bit more room for us Morton Toers?

    • It’s a mirage.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Just took a quick look – 2nd toe on Bikila is about equal in length to the
      big toe. On my KSO’s, 2nd toe is a bit shorter than big toe. Seems you may
      be correct about that!
      Pete

      • Matt Herold says:

        Nice! My 2nd toe is freakishly long (so much so that, as a result, my 4th toe barely goes into its pocket). Not an ideal fit but I love my KSOs too much to go back to shoes. I’ll certainly give these a shot! Thanks for the review!

  4. Hey Pete,

    Any chance of you doing a review on the new Bikila LS?

    Thanks,

    NS

    • Pete Larson says:

      Probably not from me, but I arranged one by a friend that should be
      posted on the dailymile community blog soon.

  5. Robin Frankland says:

    As an early adopter – link to bit.ly – I was initially disappointed that the Bikila was starting to look a little too much like a (un)conventional running shoe. The different rubber compounds and ‘toe spring’ you refer to, in my mind, detract from the original purpose of the shoes.

    I am however reserving judgment until I have seen a pair for myself (and read more reviews) but if they help another few runners take the leap from the dreadful, over engineered, running shoes of today to a more natural and inspired way of running then it will be a job well done.

  6. Joe Maller says:

    Any thoughts about the the velcro strap going the other way? It looks backwards to me, but I haven’t been able to try on a pair yet.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Not sure why they switched the strap direction, but the Bikila strap is also
      different in that it doesn’t go around the heel. The fit is so snug that the
      heel strap is unnecessary. Also, the strap looks a bit more substantial in
      the Bikila, and hopefully will withstand abrasion better than my KSO strap,
      which is starting to wear down.

      Pete

  7. I’ve had a pair of KSOs since 2008 and used them for mostly hiking and outdoor activities.  I read your blog and bought a pair of Bikilas  because I really wanted to start running “barefoot”.  I live in northern Japan now and have only been using them on the treadmill in my town’s gym as it’s too cold now, but let me tell you,  They are wonderful!!! Thanks for writing such a comprehensive review and inspiring me to run in Vibrams.

  8. I like the color and the sole part…The color is cute very attractive to the eye…:D

  9. paulakiger says:

    It’ll be interesting to hear your further opinions, Pete!

  10. link to vimeo.com
    Learning the skill of barefoot running Terra plana video

  11. In the last month I have run 2 Mountain Ultra Marathons in my Bikilas (40 miles each). Alas they are retired now due to abrasive wear between the toes, essentially they have fallen apart. I loved the comfort they provide, but unfortunately, for my running they just are not tough enough.

    However, for less extreme running they are excellent. Hopefully Vibram come out with a tougher model. One other problem I find is they collect trail crud between the toes, which means a lot of stopping to pull it out.

  12. Alecbeckett says:

    Did you see their web site for this shoe? YouAreTheTechnology.com
    Pretty amazing.

  13. Ok.. I’ve now run 2 marathons, and several halves in my Biklia’s.. With several hundred miles under my feet in the them (no pun intended) I must say that I am a convert to them. My KSO Trek’s are now for hiking, rock climbing, and everyday use only. Biklia’s have won my running feet!

  14. Amylasey says:

    I have plantar fasciitis and high arches. I am wondering if you think running in the bikila ls will help or hurt?

    • Pete Larson says:

      I wish I had an easy answer, but I don’t. I find that wearing flat shoes
      helps to keep my calf stretched, which can help a bit with PF – I get minor
      heel soreness from time to time myself. However, I often am flat all day in
      my work shoes as well (Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot), so if you regularly wear
      shoes with heels then that can interfere. It’s very complex and not a whole
      lot of answers, and the best advice I can give is that if what you are doing
      now is not working, a change might be warranted, and if you do change do it
      very gradually so that you don’t create a new problem.

  15. Reina8292 says:

    I’m surprised to see this version includes a toe spring, since that moves towards a more traditional running shoe instead of a minimalist shoe. I recently purchased the Vibram Sprint and have been happy with the results. I can’t wait to check these out. Thanks for the review.

  16. Pete,
    Glad to see you can finally experience the Bikila’s. I have a feeling you’ll be using these exclusively before you know it! The more you use them the harder it will be to run in anything else. At least that’s been my experience. I’ve been in love with them from the moment I put them on. Looking forward to your follow up review!

  17. I am varsity crosscountry runner and have warn nike free 3.0/racing flats for training and want to go more towards bear foot would biklias work for distance and speed

    • Pete Larson says:

      If you are in Free 3.0′s and flats regularly, the Bikilas would be a good
      next step toward barefoot. They are still a big jump, so you’ll need to
      build up slowly before doing serious distance or speed in them. Expect sore
      calves, and mix them in with your other shoes in moderation. I generally use
      mine about one a week, but know some peopl who run in them much more often.
      Best advice I can give is to be careful and avoid doing too much too soon.

      Pete

  18. tdhurst says:

    Have you ever run in Sprints? I just completed a half marathon in them and am training for a marathon. Was curious as to the fit. I also own classics and KSOs, but much prefer my sprints.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Tyler,

      I don’t won the Sprints, so can’t comment on that. You may want to check
      with Matt at Run Luau Run – I think he has all three: link to runluaurun.com
      .

      Pete

      • tdhurst says:

        But you like the bikilas better than the KSOs? Sprints are a fav because they’re so thin.

        Any ideawhere bikilas are sold? Site says in store, but c’mon…they’re never in stock. Thx for thehelp!

        • Travelcountry.com often has them in stock and is a reputable dealer. Birthdayshoes.com has an inventory alert email list. Good luck!

        • Pete Larson says:

          Tyler,

          I’d say it’s way to early for me to judge which I like better – need
          more time in the Bikilas. They definitely have a different feel than
          the KSO’s though. I was told that the Bikila would be in very short
          supply through summer. City Sports seems to restock frequently, and I
          know that REI and Rock Creek (I think) carry them. EMS, Kayakshed, Sun
          & Ski Sports, and several other on-line retailers also carry “real”
          Vibrams, I’ll see if I can put together some links when I get a
          chance.

          Pete

  19. Shaelyne says:

    I bought a pair of Bikila LS probably about 10 months ago. I ran in them for awhile but soon my IT band injury went to a whole new level of pain I had never experienced. I could hardly walk it was so tight and inflamed and I was forced to stop running for about 3 months. I have been doing a lot of research on shoes lately because I am training for my first marathon. I loved the feel of these shoes and wish I could run in them, even though I love my pumas, but I am afraid of injuring myself again. I’m just curious if you have any suggestions or maybe know what i’m doing wrong?

    • Pete Larson says:

      Some shoes just don’t work well for some people, so tough to say. With injuries, best to see a professional like a PT who can sort things out.

  20. Rene Radomes says:

    Hi Pete…I’ve been a regular reader of your blog (from the Philippines) particularly on running shoes and I find your blog very helpful & informative. I’m a newbie in running…I’ve already joined 3 10k Run here in the Philippines. I usually run 10K once a week & irregular work out at the gym (once a week) mostly on treadmill. Right now I’ve reading a lot of reviews on VFFs & I become interested to purchase 1 – i’m looking at between Bikila or Treksport. Hence, what would you recommend based on a given background of my running activities? Relatively, aside from using it for running, I also wanted to be able to use them as casual footwear (walking my dog or going to the mall). 

    • Pete Larson says:

      If you run mostly on roads and treadmill, then the Bikila would be the better choice. However, they do fit very snug and I tend to not like wearing them as a casual shoe as a result, the Treksport is better for the latter, and it can be used on roads. You might also take a look at the KomodoSport as it works well for both too.
      To be honest, right now I actually prefer shoes without toes, and for a comparable experience the Inov8 Bare-x 180 is fantastic.
      Pete

      Sent from my iPad

  21. I’m really happy to see the toe spring and the longer 2nd toe, as the form appears to exactly match the shape of my foot (I have high arches). I can’t wait to try them.

  22. I am so glad I found this site. Thanks for the info on the Nike free 3.0 and the Kinvara. I also have a question on the Bikila’s. I have them a few months now, and ran 70 km’s (45 miles) on them. Mostly on a tredmill. I keep getting blisters, and even tiny open wounds on the inside of my feet, approximately half way. There are some irritatin nylonish threads with knots there. I wait for callus to take over, and I know I could tape it away, but I am wondering, did you notice the same?

    • Pete Larson says:

      I have not had this problem with my Bikilas – can the threads be cut?
      If not, try contacting Vibram customer service if you think it is a
      manufacturing defect.

  23. Yeah, longer 2nd toe is big news in my book! I haven’t seen that mentioned before.

  24. Love my Bikilas alot, can’t even go back to normal running shoes now, not even my Frees.

  25. Peaden12 says:

    I just purchased the Vibram Bikila LS two days ago.  I did a lot of research and read a ton of reviews before I decided to give them a shot.  I’ve never tried running the “minimalist” way, but I have to say that I am very pleased.  I’ve put about 10 miles on them so far and my feet feel great.  My legs are a little sore, but I love these shoes.  Running is fun again.  ;)   

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