Vibram Fivefingers Bikila Review Part 2: Additional Thoughts on Bikila Running

I’ve been dealing with a familiar burning sensation in my calf muscles this week (primarily the lower calf, or soleus muscle). I thought that I had outgrown this due to my regular running in minimalist shoes, but after 15 miles in the heat on Sunday, followed by 3.1 miles in my Vibram Fivefingers Bikilas on Monday, and then another 5+ in the Bikilas on Wednesday, my legs were pretty fried. The interesting thing here is that the calf soreness probably has nothing to do with the 15 miler, and everything to do with the Bikila runs. It seems the Bikila are encouraging me to land on my forefoot, thus working my calves harder than they are used to be being worked. It’s a good kind of soreness, and it indicates positive adaptation (much like the burn you feel after going to the gym and lifting for the first time in awhile).

I wrote a post a few days ago detailing some of my first impressions on the Vibram Fivefingers Bikilas, and I’d like to follow up with some additional thoughts after two additional runs. Let me start by saying that I absolutely love running in these shoes. I’ve now taken them out three times (a bit over 10 miles total), but for some reason they really do seem to encourage me to shift to a forefoot footstrike. I’m not sure why this is the case, as I rarely forefoot strike unless I’m barefoot (I have always tended to midfoot strike in my VFF KSO’s). My sense is that the snugness of the Bikila makes it feel like an extension of my bare foot, and contrary to what others have said, I feel a better connection with the ground in the Bikilas than in my KSO’s, despite the thicker soles on the Bikila. This may be because my KSO’s are a tad on the large side for me and thus less form-fitting, but it’s hard to say for sure. I did have a small issue with toe fabric pulling away a bit from the sole (my toes are fitting very snugly in the pockets), but managed to fix that with a bit of Krazy glue, and it seems to be holding well. I mentioned this to my contact who provided me with the shoes, and he suggested that anyone experiencing such an issue should contact their retailer or Vibram customer service to arrange an exchange – apparently it’s a known issue in a small subset of shoes that has since been fixed.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I took the Bikilas out for 5+ miles on Wednesday, and decided to let loose for the final 0.5 just to see what I had in me. I manged to knock that half-mile out at a 6:09 pace, probably the fastest I have ever run in a pair of Vibrams. It was one of those rare moments when my body felt totally in sync, and I was firing on all cylinders. I was forefooting the entire way, it felt amazing, and it left me wanting more. I just need to hold myself back and not overstress my legs, despite my desire to get back out there in these shoes. The experiment will continue…

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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. I love these shoes. I have a bad flat foot, and when I approach the 7-8+ mile zone I would get bad shin splints and later hip pain.

    In the Bikila’s it has all gone away. Other than that dreaded calf pain the first few runs. I feel much faster, and more in sync, than I ever did in regular running shoes.

    After running for years in normal shoes, I’m blistering bad on my right heel, as I’m still striking down too hard. I’m hoping that in time, I will adjust my bad habits.

    I’m preparing for a half marathon in just under 2 weeks, and am hoping to do it in the Bikila’s. My longest run to date in them is about 6 miles.

  2. Dan (Milan, NH) says:

    My Bikilas came in last night. They are much more of a dedicated running shoe than my KSO’s. I found they were easier to put on. The adding padding on the forefoot was nice considering the rough roads I run on. My wife’s pair should be coming in early next week!

  3. nathan118 says:

    Would love to try these, but I’m afraid I’ll be stuck with my Sprints. My last two toes are fairly curved, and it’s super hard getting them in the toe pockets on the sprint, where my fingers can reach down and put my toes in places. Without that access, like in the Bikila, I don’t think I could get my toes in the pockets.

    I like my sprints…but wondering what a good alternative is for those of us with oddly shaped toes. :)

    • yasmine says:

      I obviously don’t know how long you have been running in your sprints, but one of the many benefits of barefoot running is that it strengthens one’s toes to allow them to straiten out overtime. 
      After running close to three years in my KSOs, my toes are slowly but surely beginning to look more normal. 

  4. Steeplechaser29 says:

    I LOVE my bikilas too. I’ve worn nothing else for running ever since I got them ~ a month ago and they are great! I actually like to wear them around for walking too – probably more so that my VFF classics. (but I’ve actually had my classics for less time, so maybe I’m just not as used to them.
    Thanks for the review!

  5. KEDSand1 says:

    Great blog posts! I’m getting a pair of Bikilas today. After two years of running with (what are now hole-y) Sprints, I’m looking forward to hitting the road with the Bikilas.

  6. I’m an avid FiveFinger runner, 75+ miles per week on average in them.. i’m not sure how I missed this new release, but as soon as I saw your article I ordered a pair.. Overnight delivery from REI. Very excited to see the improvements for this passionate KSO runner..

  7. Ari Herzog says:

    Hi Pete, I bought my first pair of Vibrams today — with the Bikila model, because it felt more comfortable than the KSOs which is what I had thought I would buy. I also liked the Flow, but the Bikila felt better in the heel.

    Question: How has this particular model worked for you for non-running, e.g. as a general purpose fitness/walking pair?

    • Pete Larson says:

      Ari – no, don’t use the Bikila for walking because of the snug fit. Prefer the KSO or Trek Sport for casual wear.

      • Ari Herzog says:

        Isn’t there supposed to be a snug fit in all of them? Isn’t that what separates the “feel” of the Vibrams from other shoes?

  8. where can I buy biklias in New Jersey?

  9. sickerthnothers says:

    Now that you’ve had them another several months, are you still running in them?

  10. TahokaFreeway says:

    Pete,

    Thanks for the update. My Bikila’s are on the way to me. You have me salivating; wanting get them out for a trial run. Really appreciate the updates.

    Rick

  11. Thanks for the update Pete!

    What are your thoughts on wearing Injinjis with the Bikilas? I’d rather avoid the five-finger-funk if possible.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I sized down in the Bikila, so no way I could get a pair of socks in
      there. I do wear Injinjis on all of my KSO runs, but again, they are a
      size larger.

      Pete

  12. I just picked up a pair of these today – looking forward to working them in.

  13. brett stewart says:

    Pete; I agree with your review of the Bikilas – they are quite a bit more snug than KSO’s of the same size; I can imagine that they are considerably more snug now that you’ve moved one size down. During my first 4-5 hours of wearing them at work and a few hallway “jogs” I thought they were cutting tonto the top of my foot along the opening. After a few more hours of body heat & motion (maybe some sweat) they loosened up a bit.
    Putting them on when your feet are even slightly sweaty or wet (after the shower @ the gym) is nearly impossible without having some serious patience. Overall, REALLY comfy tho.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I’ve also found that they loosened up a bit after a few wears. They were
      uncomfortably tight at first, but now feel perfectly snug.
      Pete

  14. Hhollines says:

    If you have a natural forefoot landing when barefoot, like me, then that is your natural foot strike and that’s the foot strike you should maintain in any shoe.

  15. Nick Johnson says:

    These shoes sound amazing. I really wish we could exact fit the sizes to our feet. Living in Japan, with no VFF retailers and having Mortons toe, makes me not want to order these. As soon as I get back to the states, I am trying them out. I can’t wait. Thanks for the update. I love reading your posts! Thanks for keeping me motivated!

    • Pete Larson says:

      Thanks for the comment – I would recommend trying them on before
      buying. They fit snug, which may not be to the liking of some people,
      though personally I have found that to be one of their greatest
      virtues.

      Pete

      • paul doyle says:

        Hi Pete,
        I tryed the KSO in size 44 fit was sung do you think i should drop
        dowm a size to 43 for bikila’s

        Regards

        Paul

        • Pete Larson says:

          If it was snug in a 44, I’d probably go with it. You don’t want it to be too
          constricting. Were your toes comfortable in the 44?
          Pete

  16. i have run about 150 miles in my bikilas over the last year and a half (I have about 5 pairs of shoes, 3 minimalist, 2 “regular” and while I had intended to transition fully to barefoot shoes, it hasn’t happened.  Anyway, I wanted to ask about wear on the Bikilas.  I am noticing a lot of wear; when do you replace your minimal shoes?  With nothing to “break down” on the sole, I assume they last a long time?  thanks.

  17. My Bikila’s rock. Since getting them I ran in my old Asics once and not sure I’ll do that again. This is my first pair of VFF’s so really nothing to compare them too. They feel very natural for my running style. Had some soreness for about a week and a half after getting them, but nothing since. Keep up the good work.

  18. Rodney Bowman says:

    I put 3 easy miles on my brand new Bikilas today.  The first 1/4 mile was a different feeling and I shortened my stride.  I could definitely notice the lack of cushion as compared to my Mirages or Kinvaras, but after the initial half mile, my feet adjusted nicely.  I went out to make sure I didn’t feel anything strange or uncomfortable in my mechanics.  After my run, I felt great.  I didn’t feel any pain or fatigue in my feet, ankles, shins, or calves.  I will provide an update in a few days as a follow up.  Overall, I am very impressed and pleased with this super comfortable shoe.  I got many questions about the shoes, so Vibram received plenty of advertisement today from me. 

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