Vibram FiveFingers Bikila Review Facts
Vibram has become the undisputed king of the barefoot running movement. As their line of products expands, they try to hit more and more narrow niches of minimal runners. The Vibram Five Fingers Bikila attempts to be the ultimate shoe for the barefoot enthusiast. These shoes are designed to provide a totally natural running experience that connects the runner with the ground. Casual athletes may also find these comfortable for walking, light hiking, or other fitness activities.
Vibram deploys their well-known outsole technology to the Bikila. The outsole is comprised of Vibram’s non-marking TC1 performance rubber. The thickness of the outsole comes in at 4mm which may not sound like much but it’s enhanced by the well-designed arrangement
of the grooves for traction. Vibram calls these traction pods and they’re strategically laid out in a way that mimics the natural contours of the human foot. Mimicking the human foot is exactly what the best minimalist running shoes
set out to do.
The midsole of the shoe is designed to offer just enough protection while not limiting the runner's connection to the running surface. The Bikila offers added midsole protection in the form of Dri-Lex® nylon. This material covers a 3mm insole made of polyurethane. The benefit of this setup is increased midsole support over the arch of the foot where runners typically absorb a lot of force.
The upper of any barefoot running shoe should be breathable and flexible
. The Bikila delivers on both accounts. Polyamide is the material they chose for the upper and it allows for stretchability to get the shoes on and off. The other benefit to polyamide is its resistance to abrasion. Small rocks and sticks won’t be able to penetrate the upper due to mesh panels that also aid in breathability. Polyamide is also very quick drying to dissipate sweat or other moisture picked up during runs.
These shoes are some of Vibram’s lightest
. Weighing in at about 12oz for a pair or only 6oz for a single men’s shoe in Size 10. The low weight is ideal for runners looking to be svelte while still feeling every contour of the running surface. Another added benefit to barefoot shoes is the ability to easily pack into any small area. Runners will hardly know these shoes are in their bag due to the minimal weight.
As stated, the polyamide upper provides great breathability even on the longest runs. Polyamide is designed in a way that allows for ample movement of air in and out of the shoe. Additional mesh panels make the foot feel even less constrained. The hallmark of a good Vibram barefoot shoe is breathability. The Bikila’s certainly do not disappoint on this front.
Comfort is key to any running shoe, whether it’s aimed at barefoot runners or meant to be a more cushioned
feel. The uppers of these shoes fit low on the foot to minimize any discomfort around the ankle. The collar of these shoes even adds some additional padding that’s not often found on minimal shoes. This allows for a more supportive fit that is enhanced by the innovative rip-and-stick closure system. Runners are able to get a custom fit depending on how tight or how loose they secure the strap.
Shoes with individual toe pockets
can be a hard sell for some people. The style is always in the eye of the beholder but these Vibram’s offer up a distinctive look. There are a few different colors offered so runners can pick which best suits them and their running wardrobe. Very few shoes have the mid-foot strap employed by the Bikila’s so these certainly won’t be confused for any other brand of shoe. The Bikila’s style is also enhanced with 3M® reflectivity to help keep runners safe while running in low-light situations.
Durability is a key concern for barefoot runners. On one hand, you want your shoes to be thin and minimal. Unfortunately, thin and minimal typically means that you must compromise the shoe’s durability. The Bikila’s weakest point may be the durability of the toe pockets. The material around each toe slot is relatively thin and may be the first sign of wear on these shoes. Vibram tries to minimize this by creating thermoplastic urethane toe bumpers on each of the toe slots. It’s a smart attempt to increase durability but runners should still be cautious for holes or rips where the upper meets the toe bumpers. These would not be the best option for ultra runners
or those looking to log tons of miles on one pair of shoes.
As previously stated, the thermoplastic urethane toe bumpers are a major protection solution. They aim to limit the impact of large rocks and roots on the delicate toes of runners. The polyurethane midsole insert also offers protection against the impact that will be a welcome addition for die-hard barefoot runners. Finally, the instep strap cradles the foot offering another sense of protection against the elements and running surface.
Responsiveness is rarely an issue with barefoot shoes, especially those with 0mm drop
. Unlike other shoes with thicker padding and higher heel-toe drop, Vibram’s minimal shoes respond well to subtle movement of the foot. The individual toe slots increase dexterity, stability, and control as the toes are able to naturally splay out in their stride. Runners will be able to feel the details of the running surface with each step they take in the Bikila shoes.
Even with a minimal construction, the Bikila’s are able to provide support in other ways. The midfoot strap offers the most support by keeping the foot in place during runs. The padded collar and polyamide upper give additional support around the ankle. While the 3mm polyurethane insole helps to support the arch of the foot especially when tackling uneven terrain. Runners coming from more structured shoes will notice the difference in support features. But these fall in line nicely with other barefoot shoes in terms of support. Those looking for additional support
can find it through other means.
These shoes are not designed to be used on the most rugged terrain. The perfect terrain would likely be dirt paths and city sidewalks. Vibram offers up other options to most advanced trail runners. Most runners would be wise to reserve their Bikila training runs for the more predictable terrain.
Compared to other barefoot running shoes, the Bikila’s offer considerable value for the price. The technology used in these shoes could command a higher price from other manufacturers, but Vibram is able to keep the price relatively affordable. Barefoot shoes typically use less material than their supportive competitors but fewer materials don’t equal less price. Vibram is able to find a good middle ground between features and prices.
The Bikila’s outsole is designed to replicate the natural traction of the human foot. There are contoured grooves around the arch of the foot as well as on each of the individual toe slots. Non-marking Vibram performance TC1 Rubber makes up the anatomically contoured pods found along the outsole and toe pockets. The shoes shouldn’t have any issues navigating wet pavement or slick trails.
These shoes are extremely flexible. The polyamide uppers stretch enough to allow for easy on-and-off. Like most Vibram shoes, the Bikila’s can nearly fold in half for easy packing or storage. Most runners will have no issue with the flexibility of these shoes and it should aid in the ability of runners to maximize their natural running stride.
The Bikila’s increase their stability mostly due to the midfoot strap closure system. The foot should be held in place with little movement during runs. Runners who crave maximum stability should probably look elsewhere for a more substantial shoe
. Vibram has built its reputation on creating lightweight shoes that strike the perfect balance between flexibility and stability.
Like many other Vibram shoes, the Bikila’s offer a 0mm heel-to-toe drop. This means that the runner will be completely in touch with the running surface without the feeling of their foot being propped up above the terrain. There are plenty of barefoot enthusiasts who demand this 0 drop, but runners not used to it should take caution. It’s recommended to ease into running in 0 drop shoes if you are not used to it. This will help minimize injury risk.
Key Features of the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila
Key Features of the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila
- Very lightweight design for minimal runners
- Anatomical traction system on outsole
- Superior traction to get through mud and wet grass
- Water-resistant upper to repel moisture
- Innovative strap closure system
- Unique style with individual toe pockets
- Anti-microbial materials and easily washable
Overall, the Bikila checks off most of the boxes for a minimal running shoe. It takes advantage of a lot of technology in a small, lightweight package. Barefoot runners who do most of their running on roads or soft trails will really enjoy these shoes. Trail runners should probably take a look at some of Vibram’s more rugged trail shoes
if they’re looking to tackle extreme terrain. For the average runner looking to make the leap into the world of barefoot running, the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila may be a perfect choice.