For quite some time you have seen me giving updates on the fabled Vibram Bikila.  Well I was blessed to get an early release pair and I gotta say I am excited and impressed.  I wrote my first thoughts as I opened them box, put them on my feet, and walked around outside for a bit.  I have heard about how great this new breed of Five Fingers is going to be and I will be the first to attest to the truth in the myth.

First Impressions: This is a great-looking shoe.  From the moment I saw this color combo I knew it was the one I wanted.  I was not disappointed in it at all.  In hand they feel different than my other Five Fingers.  They feel weighted in the sense that you can tell these are not just a solid piece of rubber like the other models.  They feel lighter in the mid-foot and the weight seems to be in the fore foot.  I would think this is part of why they are better at promoting a good “barefoot” running form.  Having the weight in the balls of the feet will automatically help the mind let the foot fall forefoot first.  The upper is amazing.  It feels soft and smooth, and you can tell that this is a different material.  The strap feels sturdy, and I love that they put a bit of the female side of Velcro at the end of the strap.  This keeps it from closing together at the very end of the strap but it also gives you an easy pull tab as well as a way to keep the Velcro strap from sticking to things like pants.  The shoe is strategic and sleek.  There is no strap around the heel, but the strap attaches to a piece that wraps around the base of the heel and connects the strap on the inside of the foot.  This makes the strap go all the way around without putting any pressure on the Achilles tendon.  The heel is also cut in a way that hugs the base of the heel instead of above it.  Again this keeps pressure off the Achilles and allows the heel to flex in a very natural way.  The pods on the sole feel solid but not in a stiff way; they feel sturdy, and I believe these Vibrams will be every bit as durable as any other.  The implementation of an arch pad is interesting, but it is flexible, which leads me to believe it will not affect how the foot functions in running.  My overall first impression just holding these shoes is that they are very well thought out and engineered to give the best of all worlds.  A minimalist will still like them, and a runner will love them.  They make me feel like I’m holding a running shoe but still a “barefoot” one.

On the Foot: This shoe is comfortable.  The inside is soft and smooth, and I love that I cannot feel any seams at all.  I feel like I’m wearing socks.  The upper is tighter over the top of my foot than my KSO but not so much that it is bothersome.  It actually makes me feel more secure, and I could wear these without the strap.  In my case the strap is just an added security, and I like that.  The upper material seems as though it is more flexible than my other Five Fingers yet it still feels supportive.  My feet feel free inside this shoe.  It is true that you cannot bend your toes down but I like this addition to the shoe.  This is a road running shoe so I shouldn’t need my toes to bend down like I would on a trail.  To me this is a good design because as I get deeper into my distances I do not have to worry as much about my feet getting lazy and catching my toe on the ground.  I think most barefoot/minimalist runners have done this, and it’s not pleasant.  I can still curl my toes as far upward as I want and that will be important in hill running so this design gets two thumbs up from me.  The entry hole is wider and that makes it somewhat easier to get into as well as giving a more open feel to the shoe.  I imagine this is a counter to the fact that the shoe is not made of mesh so maybe this wider opening allows more airflow.  Either way it is comfortable once you get used to it.

I can feel the arch piece flex as I take steps, but I like it.  I can feel it moving with me but not assisting me.  I imagine on longer runs this will actually help my foot stay stronger as it is a small amount of assistance to the arch muscles.  I do feel the thickness difference that has created so much debate among the barefoot purists, but I do not feel as though I am missing any sensitivity to the ground.  One thing I can feel that is very different is the thickness in the heel.  It is definitely thicker, and I have my assumptions as to why, but here are my thoughts on the feel.  It feels very nice just standing.  The thickness gives just the right amount of cushion to the heel.  At times in my other Five Fingers I catch myself having to get off my heels because they are starting to ache.  I feel like I’m standing on clouds in these shoes.  As strange as that may be this small addition of a few millimeters of thickness seem to be alleviating a lot of pressure from my heel, and I like it.  It feels comfortable and I feel like Vibram has done minimalist runners a great justice with this shoe.

As I write this I find it hard to put into words just how much I love this shoe’s feel.  It is the most comfortable shoe I have ever slid my foot into, and I mean that.  I have worn more shoes than most as I am a huge fan of shoe design.  I used to love getting new shoes but was often let down at how the shoe was not always very comfortable.  The minute I slid my foot into this shoe I felt comfort.  I felt a familiar feeling as this is a Five Finger, but I felt a lot of new comforts as well.  It’s like I just climbed out of my 1955 truck and into a new Mercedes.  I love the old truck and would never think anything but wonderful things about it as it has style and personality and serves me a great purpose.  The Mercedes however is comfortable, has new technology, and just makes me feel comfy.  I think that’s about the best analogy I can come up with.

Taking the Shoe Off: First I will say I didn’t want to.  They feel good.  The tightness over the top of my foot will take some getting used to, but I also imagine they will stretch out.  The shoe did not come off as easily as it went on.  The toe pockets are snug, and the higher heel makes it so that I had to work a little to get my foot free.  Maybe that was the shoe; maybe it was my foot not wanting to leave.  I don’t know.  I have a feeling it will take some practice and will probably change a lot once I have worn the shoe.

Sitting here looking at the shoe I am smiling.  I cannot believe I finally have a pair, and I am so glad I was able to jump on City Sports’s early release thanks to birthdayshoes.com.  When and if you can get your hands on these I highly recommend you pull the trigger.  Just as a walking shoe I think this is a very nice option and again I recommend them.

In the very near future I will put these new shoes through the rounds and report what I find.  I have a half marathon this weekend and these will be on my feet for two reasons.  First I love the way they feel, and I want to see how they do.  Second I love getting new shoes, and I find it hard not to wear them so these will get the call for the 13.1.  After that race I will let everyone know what I think of these as running shoes so stay tuned as I have a feeling it will be interesting.

Other good Bikila Reviews:

Birthday Shoes

Run Luau Run

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4 responses »

  1. Brian LaMee says:

    Great review and thanks. So you logged and miles in them yet and how would you compare the run feel to that of the KSO?

    • i have logged some runs in them. how could i not? i have a half marathon on saturday that will be my final test of these shoes and after that i will post a very in depth review on them. as to your question about bikila vs. kso. completely different.

  2. Theo says:

    Very nice review, makes me want to have them too. You say you were blessed to get an early release pair. Wonder if you have any idea when and when I can buy a pair in the Netherlands…

    • Sadly I think you’ll be waiting a couple of more months before the Bikila makes its way over there. Vibram seems to be pushing the Speed out because it is a Euro only release. After that the Bikila will probably show up.

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