When I got my Bikilas, I spent about an hour walking around in them and getting a feel for the shoe.  I then sat around my house and studied them right before I sat down and wrote out all my initial thoughts and first impressions.  Well now I have run in them, I’ve worn them to work, and I’ve learned some things about them that I had not expected.  These shoes have pleasantly surprised me, and that is saying a lot as I had extremely high expectations for them.

First Run: My first run in the Bikila was a mile and half long.  I had just gotten off antibiotics for a viral infection so I had to take it easy for the first run.  That is not to say that I did not want to do more and almost did.  As I took my first running steps in these shoes I could tell they were unlike any other Five Finger (or VFF for the rest of this post), and the comparisons are not even close.  These shoes are snug, and on this run they bordered on too tight over the top of my foot.  Still though I knew I had to give them a chance and see if they broke in.  I am no stranger to shoes, and these feel more like a shoe than my other VFFs.  I used that experience to give this practice a try.  My form was terrible, as my legs felt heavy and dead.  I still lacked energy from the illness, and I could feel it every step of the way.  The wind was blowing at a steady 15 mph with 20 plus mph gusts and it was crazy humid.  Still, through all of that my feet felt good.  These shoes are just as advertised in their ability to help you maintain a good fore-/mid-foot strike.  I was seriously plodding along during this run.  My feet were noisy, and I wondered if it was the shoes or me; it was me.  I could feel the arch insert giving and springing back up with each step, which led me to think of this as arch assistance instead of support.  The heel is very comfortable while running, and I felt no slack or sliding in it.  In fact I felt no sliding in these shoes at all, and they really showed me just how sloppy the action is in my other VFFs.  I have a tendency to get blisters on my big toes in my other VFFs, and I could never figure out why.  I tinkered constantly with my form over this issue, and I now know that it is simply because my feet slide a little in those shoes.  The Bikila is more of a foot glove than any other VFF I have worn, and I have worn all models.  By the end of my mile and a half test run I was ready to pack it in.  My body and legs felt done, but my feet were asking for more.  This is a new feeling for me, as my feet are usually the first link in the chain to break so I almost went for more, but knowing better I decided to take solace in my foot comfort and live to run another day.

Second Run: Little did I know that “another day” I would be running would be the next day.  My plan was to take a day off, but I felt great the next day so I decided to amp up the schedule a bit.  Run number two was comprised of nearly seven miles, lots of hills, 80 degree air, and a steady 23 mph wind.  Great day for running, right?  Well it turns out it was, and the Bikilas were more than up for the task.  My feet again felt good in these shoes before the run, and the tightness over the top of my foot was all but gone.  Something I noticed between the two runs was that the insole that has been a big source of debate had actually molded to my foot.  I could feel the contours of my foot as I ran my fingers inside the shoes just before this run.  Very much like a conventional shoe, it would seem this shoe was breaking in and molding to fit me.  I think this is part of what led to the top feeling looser as well as the upper fabric stretching a little.  I immediately noticed a difference in the two runs during the first mile of this second run.  I felt fresher and knew that my body was getting its juice back.  This was allowing my step to be lighter and more fluid.  The Bikila seemed to accentuate the newfound spring in my step.  I felt lighter on my feet at this point than any other time I can remember.  My feet felt great, and the shoe was feeling like an addition to my skin more than it did a shoe I was wearing.  It felt molded and sculpted around my foot, and that felt so very natural.  With the tightness gone, I could really get a sense of what this shoe is about, and it is about running. About halfway through my run, I noticed something about the shoe that was the opposite of what I had originally thought.  The feeling in the arch insert had changed.  It was no longer feeling supportive or even like it was my arch assistant.  Instead I could feel it flex and give with each contraction of my mid-foot.  I no longer felt it pushing against my foot as much as it was hugging it, and it was at that point I realized what I believe the point of this addition is.  It’s there to keep the shoe snug.  It felt as though it was keeping the shoe in that “part of me” mode more than anything else, and I gotta say I loved the feeling.  I was a little over three miles into the run, and the shoe was getting better.  It was adapting and adapting to my foot shape, my form, and me.  My step was still feeling light, and it did so through the entire run.  Normally by the end of a five mile run my feet are feeling spent, but for this run I was able to put nearly another two miles on that total without any real effort.  One major point I learned about this shoe today is its hill abilities.  It is a very nice downhill runner.  The heel is padded, and that padding allowed me to lean into the downhill and charge it comfortably.  I was not forced into finding a baby step stride to keep myself from hitting my heel on the ground.  Instead I was able to fully employ the downhill form I learned in the Zoo Run and add speed to it.  One mystery that I have not figured out yet is why my footpads felt pounded while going uphill.  Every time I went up a hill during this run my second and third metatarsals felt the pressure.  I tried different footfalls but nothing made it go away completely.  It was never present during the downs or the flats but the ups were somewhat unpleasant because of this.  It’s a mystery I will keep my eye on, as I will find it very disappointing if it continues.  I love charging hills, and this painful sensation kept me from doing so.  I finished this run feeling the distance and the effort but nothing that was out of the ordinary or that would really require any rest.  I walked away with no blisters, which is something that I have never done in a VFF run of five miles or more.  I had no lingering pad pain and all in all everything felt really good.  Is this because of the Bikila?  I’m thinking there is a very good chance that is the case.

Third Run: This was a mile and half run to keep my legs loose before my half marathon the next day.  It was hot, very humid, and still very windy.  My legs felt good, and my run was not too taxing outside of the weather causing its expected problems.  The big issue on this run was the fact that I decided to give socks a try in these shoes.  I gotta say that I was not impressed with the combo.  First these toes are not quite roomy enough for socks, and neither is the upper.  I think this is on purpose as these shoes are designed with the sockless runner in mind.  I felt like I was too far from the ground, and my form was off because of it.  I was constantly trying to figure out my footfall and really having to make it work.  For the majority of the run I could not get my feet to fall the same as each other or even from step to step.  It was very awkward, and I decided there that I was not going to be trying that trick again.

Fourth Run: The Azle Lake Run.  I participated in the half marathon, and I knew this would be the grand daddy of tests for my new Bikilas.  I will admit that I was essentially unprepared for this race.  My longest run either bare or in VFFs had only been about seven miles.  This would be almost double that so I was slightly apprehensive.  The weather was good.  No wind, no sun, and a crisp 65 degrees or so.  It was a perfect opportunity to test my shoes.  The race started out nicely, and my feet felt at home.  The shoe was soft and smooth, and I felt nothing negative.  My footfalls were even and strong, and all the things I’ve come to expect from these shoes were working in full force.  The arch piece was keeping the shoe snug, the upper and insole were both now perfectly molded to my foot, and the heel cup was letting my feet flex nicely.  This was being everything it was advertised to be, and I was impressed.  I was happy, and the feet felt great.  My form held up through the entire race with only a couple of foot scuffs on some hills.  The hills were where this shoe shined!  The padded heels again let me settle into a subtle heel strike that gave me a very quick turnover, and I felt smooth with no pounding.  The up hills worked themselves out as I was landing more flat footed at times but also other times I was right up on the balls of my feet as I charged the hill.  I guess maybe my feet were going through a transition phase in these shoes when I felt the pad pain before because there was none of that on this run.  I finished the race with a fairly strong kick, and these shoes responded well to kicking it into another gear.  They handled perfectly, and I have never been so happy with a running shoe.  These shoes make me want to use them and leave some of my barefoot runs behind.  This is a great thing as summer is approaching here in Texas and running bare on the skillets we call sidewalks won’t cut it.  Post-race my arches feel used but not dead, and I have zero leg soreness except for some tightness in my Achilles, which seems to be normal in these shoes.  I attribute that to the fact that the heel is not as tight, and my heel feels free to work and stretch.  My only issue after this half is that I suffered some blisters.  They are not too bad and mostly small.  I got a blood blister on my right big toe, but the others are all on my second and third toes: both feet.  I can probably attribute this to being twice the length of any minimalist shoe run I’ve ever done.  It could be something about the seams in the toes of the shoes as this is basically the only place there are seams.  This will have to be determined at a later date because I really cannot pinpoint any exact reason.

So what do I think?  My official stance is that if you are a minimalist runner then this is a shoe that you should have.  This is a running shoe for minimalist runners, which is a big difference from what we are used to.  This is an engineered running shoe, but that should only make you happy, not scared.  Yes, the minimalist world fears the over-engineering of shoes, but this shoe was engineered to fit into our world, and Vibram has done so with an amazing first attempt at a running shoe.  This thing feels like a running shoe without all the cushioning.  For years I have said I ran in Five Fingers, but I think this will usher in an era called Five Finger running, and yes they are very different.  Before we put foot gloves on our feet, and we made them work for our running needs.  With these shoes, we are putting running shoes on our feet that meet our minimalist running needs, and I could not say enough good things about them.  This shoe and its performance blow me away, and really what more needs to be said?

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43 responses »

  1. Duncan says:

    Superb review, Jimmy. When you said “this shoe was engineered to fit into our world”, I knew I had to find a pair which I will try to do. The detail with which you share your own experience is extremely helpful. I know a rather well known running magazine in which you should be a regular contributor! Duncan.

    • Thank you Duncan. For you and others who are interested I think City Sports online is still the best place to look. They seem to have the best stock of these shoes at the moment.

  2. austin says:

    has anybody had problems with the tpu toe protection on top peeling? its half gone on the right pinky toe of mine….ill probably just get some waterproof glue and glue it back down for now.

    • one other person has reported this same thing to me but that’s all. mine have held up really well to a lot of running in different conditions. i’m not sure if this will become a widespread issue but i dont expect it to. i never really felt the tpu covers were going to be very durable to begin with. time will tell i guess. thanks for the report

  3. jayson says:

    Nice review. Just did my first Bikila run. 2 miles. Top portion is really REALLY tight, but otherwise feels great. I am used to the classics, but these seem really tight in comparison. Hopefully they will stretch out.

    • From my own experiences and talking with others the upper stretches after a run or two. I think that’s the point is for this to be a very form fitting shoe so you dont slide around in it and cause blisters. Give it some time and I bet you’ll be like me and not want to run in anything else.

  4. AustinAggie says:

    Did you find your Bikila’s in Texas or did you have to order them?

  5. Eric says:

    I am having trouble with my achilles after a few runs in my Bikalas… 😦
    I am wondering if I just over did it or if others are having this problem too?

    • The Bikila’s heel is looser than other shoes and allows for a greater range of motion in the heel. This will place more stress on your achilles which can cause soreness. If given time to rest between runs it will go away as you get stronger and more used to the shoe. That’s my opinion at least.

    • JM says:

      I started running barefoot/minimalist this past winter and have had achilles problems ever since. I think going barefoot just takes the stress off your heels and knees and transfers it to your calves/achilles. I’m also training for my first 50 miler, so I’m guessing the long miles have something to do w/ it too.

      • You make good points and what we have to realize as runners is that the force has to be dealt with somewhere. Your calves, feet, and achilles are all better suited to handle it than your knees and shins. Your long miles are probably adding up and creating your problems as you have not been at this for very long. My advice is to try and work a little more rest into the plan if you can. Otherwise you need to be proactive and do things like massage, heat soaks…etc. Good luck in the 50 miler!

  6. Rick Scott says:

    Hey so I have some brand new Bikilas, and their great!, but only on one foot. On my right foot it feels great. But on my left it feels pretty tight. There’s a good amount of room infront of each toe except my big toe which is scrunched up at the end. Also when I take a step with my left foot I feel it stretching and its pretty tight, not too comfortable. I was wondering if it just takes time for them to stretch out a little perhaps, and contour to the foot, or if it may be worth trying to return them.

    • Mine definitely stretched out and are now perfect. I was not dealing with my toes being scrunched at all though. I typically say if your toe is bent inside a Five Finger shoe then it is too small. If it’s just touching the end then you are ok and the shoe is, in my opinion, perfect. Tightness over the toes and the top of the foot will stretch and it will feel good when it does. The issue of the toe not feeling long enough can also change but I’m not sure how much. If you have the opportunity to try on another size that might be beneficial otherwise I would say to give them a little more time and see if they get better.

  7. Chad R. says:

    Informative feedback. After a largely successful year and a half of running in KSOs, Classics, and Treks I’ve been eyeing the Bikila. On the plus (for me) it would be good to be able to handle downhills better. On the negative side I’d like to be able to wear Injinji socks with them in the winter time. I think I’ll wait until a couple of my old pairs wear out (Shoe Goo goes a long way in extending the life of Fivefingers) before picking up some Bikilas.

    • Jeannine says:

      I’ve been wearing socks with mine, in fact if I wear them without socks my feet hurt. But I’m new to barefooting and my feet are likely more sensitive. It’s the pads near the toes that hurt me, the socks provide enough to help that. Hoping I can wear them barefoot soon as it feels more natural.

      • I can’t imagine wearing socks with mine but I know people who like it. I’ve worn socks with other VFFs but the Bikila just feels so good without them.

  8. Jeannine says:

    I just got my Bikila’s on the weekend from CitySports, I live in Canada and used the Google Check out thingy. Not sure if they ship to Canada or not though, I had them shipped to my husband’s place in WA. These are my first pair of VFF’s ever. I’m hoping to get rid of my Plantar Fasciitis that I’ve had for a couple of years, but wasn’t until I took up running in January 2010 that it really got annoying. I plan to jog in them in a few days, currently I’m just getting used to them by walking around. Only thing I noticed so far is that if I wear them barefoot they hurt in between my toes and the bottoms where my pads meet my toes on the 2nd toe — I think I can feel the rubber thingies that are on the bottom there.

  9. Robert Ramos says:

    To all BIKILA users,
    I am trying to convince my mother to get these shoes, and I need information on the effects of the shoe. My mother is a nurse, and she is opposed to the long-term effects of the shoe. I am a runner, and I seriously want to use these shoes. Can anyone give me information on the quality of the healthiness?
    Thanks.

  10. chenyze says:

    Hi, I’m a complete novice runner (I pretty much stopped running regularly after my school days, where gym was mandatory) but the VFFs are really making me interested in putting some running into my exercise routine again.

    I’m quite torn between the Bikila and KSO. At the store, I’m good with both size 38 and 39 for the KSO although the top of my little toe comes under quite a bit of pressure such that it hurts a little. I also have some bad experience with other shoes (running or otherwise) where they had felt just-snug-enough when I try them out but become too tight when I really get down to working out in them. Do you think I should factor for feet expansion and get another size bigger than what “fits” at the store? Yet when I tried Bikila in 40 (they didn’t have smaller sizes) it was about one inch too large! Do you agree with VFF’s info that KSO and Bikila go by the same cutting? And is the Bikila’s material more prone to expanding than KSO?

    Thanks for your help!

    • chenyze says:

      oops sorry, one more question. I’ve been getting conflicting information about whether the Bikila is suitable for a range of uses (e.g. yoga, gym). Some places say that Bikila is a running shoes and would “heat up” at the gym (though I don’t see how that differs from running). Other websites say it is multi-purpose. But since those information are from online stores than actual users, I was wondering if you’ve got insight on this? What I’m more keen to know is – is there any strong reason why it’s bad to be using the Bikila for the gym or yoga?

      Thanks again!

      • I can see no reason why you would not find the Bikila fully capable of doing anything you need or want it to. Yoga may be problematic since the Bikila is a little stiffer than the KSO but other than that the shoe can do just about anything the KSO can. My problem is that you do not fit into the Bikila since the 40 is the smallest size they make right now. You could probably do just fine in a woman’s size though so that is an option. I think the KSO upper is definitely more forgiving than the Bikila’s as the KSO stretches more. Neither will be an issue there as they do not really lose their shape or get looser over time. When they do stretch out a trip through the washing machine will bring them back to new.

        Your small toe is probably going to be a little sore and bothered by any version of VFF you get. It will get better but there’s an adjustment phase you’re going to have to go through. For sizing I recommend you get a size that fits your foot as snug as possible without inhibiting your foot’s movement. It’s ok for toes to touch the end of a toe pocket but it’s not ok for that toe to be bent because of it. If your toes can be perfectly straight in the toe pocket and the shoe is still snug then you probably have the right fit. It may take some getting used to but you’ll be glad you got them to fit right later on.

        I’ve got both shoes and I think the KSO is great, but nowhere near as good as the Bikila for running. If your main purpose for the shoe is running then the Bikila is the way to go. With that said I personally am not a fan of the Bikila as an everyday shoe. It just doesn’t feel right standing around in it. The KSO fits that bill very nicely and I prefer it for leisure purposes over the Bikila. I have talked with a lot of people who feel the opposite and think the Bikila is great for the everyday stuff as well so I think it’s personal preference there. I would try a woman’s size Bikila though before you make any final decision. Good Luck

  11. chenyze says:

    Hi! I’m female so yes, women’s sizings should work out for me. d= But thank you very much for your advice! I’ll definitely keep in mind what you said about checking for the fit (touching toe pockets vs. bent toe). I might go for 38 for KSO or 39 for Bikila. I think my toe issue might be a bit more problematic for Bikila than KSO since you said Bikila doesn’t stretch as much. I’ll probably go for Bikila in the end, because at this moment running is my biggest issue and I would love to get the technique right from the start. Bikila’s structure to enforce mid-foot strike sounds quite promising.

    Thanks again and I’m really grateful for your lengthy reviews! (=

  12. Corey says:

    Excellent review, sir. I also live in Texas and just this week tried out my new pair of Bikila’s.

    I’ve been in VFF Sprint’s for the past year, and couldn’t have been more satisfied; I never blistered, my stride efficiency was increased, and my body felt much better. Bare-footing is definitely the way to go!

    When it came time to purchase a new pair I wanted some VFF’s with a slightly thicker sole at the impact point, not just for foot protection but also to avoid crazy amounts of Texas asphalt heat. The impact of the Bikila’s is wonderful! Likewise, I am in total agreement with you about down-hill running in the Bikila’s – it couldn’t be more enjoyable.

    However, I was wondering if you had run into any problems with the Upper in the shoe? My second run yesterday (3.5 miles) ended with identical blisters on the top of both of my feet, just where the Velcro attaches. I have a pretty high arch, perhaps that could be the problem.

    Anyhow, cheers to VFF on the Bikila. It’s a wonderful shoe. And thanks again for an excellent review.

    • I’ll tell ya Corey that I have encountered a tiny blister or two from the Bikila’s but nothing bad or ever repeated after the first time. For me I think things like that may be an aberration more than anything else. Our wonderful state of Texas is nice and hot right now and the subsequent sweating could have helped create a friction spot. You could try something like Body Glide or Dr Scholl’s Blister Defense on the area and that should get rid of the issue.

      I did some track work in my ZEM’s Monday and the heat from the track was insane coming through to my feet. I never felt overly hot or got any blisters but it was still impressive. Not even my VFF Classics were able to keep the heat out today so maybe the Bikila will be a good option now that the triple digits are gonna be a daily occurrence.

      Thanks for the input and good luck out there!

  13. Conrad Quesen says:

    Hi,
    I got my pair last week. I have been running in VFF for over a year and a half and will not run in any thing else. On my first few runs with them I have suffered serious blisters on the back of my Achilles tendons due to the high and tight fit of the heal section of the shoe. This is really worrying me. The rest of the shoe is perfect. Thinking of cutting them down in the back. Am I crazy. Any one else have this problem?

    • I have heard of one other person not liking the heel tab on the Bikila and he made an incision down the center of it. I do not believe it worked for him though but I think that was because of an injury more than the shoes. I always say to try and find a way to make the shoe work for you the way it is before you start cutting it but sometimes making a modification can make it perfect.

  14. Adam says:

    Hi Jimmy

    My personal experience with the Bikila was mixed (I’ve been running for a few months with KSO’s and done about 700km). I’m a 41 KSO so naturally assumed a 41 Bikila (following the main site’s recommendation etc. etc.). My first impression was that it’s very snug – to the point of it being uncomfortable. The toes felt squashed slightly and it (naturally?) felt highly noticeable wearing them around the office.

    I did one run (easy) and felt them along the entire way with that continual “snug” feeling. My next session was track and about 4 km’s into it the pain was just too intense I had to yank them off.

    Putting my KSO’s back on felt heavenly and now I’m thrown into indecision: Do I go a size bigger? Could it just be this pair? Or stick with KSO’s?

    Another friend who uses 40 KSO’s said this pair (41) felt loose around the base foot area, but felt very tight around the toes.

    Thoughts? 🙂

    • The best advice I can give you is to give them another wear or two unless the shoe is keeping your toes from getting straight while wearing them. If they are somehow too short and your toes are bent in the toe pockets then they are too small. The Bikila is a tight fitting shoe and I have run across a few people who just did not like it enough to keep wearing them. I personally like the tightness as it makes the shoe feel like an extension of my foot more than a shoe I’m wearing. I also have talked to a few people, myself included, that do not find the Bikila comfortable for casual wear but really enjoy them for exercise and running. I do not enjoy sitting around in my Bikilas as they just feel tight and cumbersome, but out on a run I love them! So I would say maybe give them another try or two before you give up on them. If you were used to the KSO then the Bikila is a big change for sure.

      • Adam says:

        Thanks Jimmy! I’ll given them another swirl for the easy runs at least and then take it from there. Will revert!

      • Adam says:

        Hi Jimmy

        Just wanted to give some feedback, but I’ve stuck with the Bikila’s and have now not looked back since.

        Appreciate the advice on sticking with them for a tad longer 🙂

  15. Joe says:

    To Robert Ramos above,

    I am a nurse and run exclusively in Vibrams. I just ran my first 5 k last week in KSOs after using them since February. Just got my Bikilias in today. I can assure you the negative effects of sponge running shoes are much greater than any negative effects of these. Do some research on the web and get her a copy of Born to Run.

  16. Sarah says:

    Has anyone had issues with these creating blisters on the back of the heels. I read somewhere that vasaline may help. I am looking for options other than the socks!

    • No issues there for me Sarah but something like Body Glide could help out there. You might also make sure you’re wearing the correct size for you. I have heard a lot of people say they felt the heel cup on the Bikila was looser than they would like but no one really complaining of blisters which makes me think that maybe you’re moving around too much in a too big shoe.

  17. Brad says:

    I was measured as a size 43 or 44 at the shoe store but did not notice until I took these for a run that the shoe salesman gave me a size 42. They do feel a bit snug but am wondering if it is really worth throwing down an extra 100 bucks to get one size larger. I doubt I can return them now that I have run in them; there is already visible wear. Any tips on whether I can stretch them to a more comfortable fit? Unfortunately the snugness is mainly in the toes, as the rubber firmly presses on the tips of them. I wouldn’t say they are scrunched per se, but they are on the verge of it. I saw one guy post about manually stretching each toe and taking a lighter to the rubber sole to break the chemical bonds, allowing it to plasticly deform. But I have bikilias with all kinds of tread, and those looked like a smoother, more uniform sole.

    • Brad I would not try and lengthen the toes of your Bikilas. I would in fact take them back as most stores are willing to do an exchange on these even after some use. You might also throw in that you noticed they gave you the wrong size after you ran in them. If they are too small, and it sounds like they are, I don’t see you getting them stretch out to be more comfortable. It’s just not gonna happen with the Bikila so your best bet is to go shoot for an exchange.

  18. Jeannine says:

    I’m still struggling with PF and very tight calves but I have been slacking on taking care of it (massage therapy, light stretching and foam roller is my homework that I never do). I still have 50lbs to lose as well. Though my feet do feel better than they did with squishy shoes.

  19. Ryan C says:

    Hey, thanks for your review. I’m running a half-marathon next week in my Bikilas (similar to you, my longest minimalist run thus far is about 8 miles). However, my attention is what you mentioned on your first run about the top of the shoe being tight…I’ve run in mine about 5 times and I still consider my right shoe too tight, to the point that the top of my foot is sore (about a 2.5 on a 1-10 scale, but only when I press the affected area). Any thoughts? Thanks!

    • It sounds like it’s just irritated but keep an eye on it. The problem with your situation is the pressure sensitivity which leads me to believe that you’re causing some inflammation that could turn into something more. Something I found to work well for my original Bikilas was to get them wet and then wear them till they dried. That allowed the fabric to stretch and kind of mold to my foot which made them fit great. I hope your foot stays ok and that your marathon goes well. Good Luck!

  20. Ryan C says:

    Thanks a lot, I’ll try the wet shoe technique tomorrow. Cheers!

  21. comfy shoes says:

    These shoes look very strange but from what i have read and been told they are fantastic to wear! Thanks for the review!

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