For countless months I've heard about the new Vibram Fivefingers shoe, the Bikila's. It was supposed to come in January, it was supposed to come in March, etc etc. Now it is finally here! Being a Vibram fan and often seen in public with "Fivetoes" shoes, I was very excited to get my hands on the Bikilas and see just how they would change the running design from the KSOs and KSO Treks. Well they have changed it, they've change it a lot and it's in both mens and womens!
The first word that jumped into my head when I held and wore the Bikilas was FORM. This Fivefinger shoe not only has a footbed that aligns to the contours of your foot but a upper structure that fits your foot perfectly. The best part about that upper structure is it doesn't constrict or squeeze your foot. Some of the Fivefingers need a way to stay on your feet so they use straps or elastic that isn't necessarily designed with your foot in mind so they can be uncomfortable. Well this is not the case with the Bikila's; they fit in every single area of the foot.
Pictured above is the heel cup and the rest of the form that circles your ankle. Immediately I noticed the very high tab in the back; there are two reasons for this. The first is for your Achilles tendon. In comparison with all the other Fivefinger shoes the Bikila is designed to cup and support your Achilles not put pressure on it with a tight strap. The second reason is for your ankles, in the picture below you will see how my ankles are all visible and not covered in the Bikilas (on the right) compared to the KSOs (on the left).
The difference is huge! There is no strap on the Bikilas, so no pressure. The ankles are free in the Bikilas, so there is free movement. The shoe is designed to complement the foot from footbed to top.
In the picture above you see another one of the differences. The enclosure around the ankle moves further down the foot allowing for more room in the shoe's opening which in turn allows for more free movement in the foot when running.
In this picture you see the profile of the KSO and Bikila. The difference is stunning in terms of form. The Bikila without a foot in it looks like a foot still, the materials are all built up to be around your feet comfortably not squeeze them to make sure it stays on. Where my KSO's have no form except the footbed and need straps around the entire ankle area to keep the shoe on.
The other area of the shoe to talk form is the footbed. When the pre-release pictures came out the footbed was the talk around town. It took the crazy look of Vibrams and expounded on it, but I didn't realize that this crazy look had a very, very important purpose in the form of the shoe.
The very important part of the footbed, in terms of form, can be summed up in one word, flexibility. If you have tried on multiple versions of Fivefingers (most notably the KSO and KSO Treks) you notice a distinct difference in the footbed. The KSO has a thin, but incredibly flexible footbed. Your foot moves and you feel the ground beneath you. The KSO Trek has a thicker footbed that (at least in my opinion) you put it on and it feels stiffer and has a very noticeable arch support. What the Bikila does is gives you the best of both worlds. You get the thickness for added cushion in on-road and off-road running as well as the flexibility your foot needs for barefoot running. This is possible because the extra thickness is spread in pads around the foot, pads that still enable the footbed to flex around them.
Pictured above is one of my favorite parts of the form on this shoe. A flexible thick foam that is shaped onto the arch of the foot. If you read my "Vibram Fivefingers - A Basic Guide" you would know I have a very high arch that used to be very sensitive to injures, but since wearing KSOs it has strengthened considerably. This arch support keeps the arch in the correct shape even through the large amount of foot flex the Fivefingers allows.
Here you see the comparison of the bottoms of the shoe between a KSO and Bikila. The added support and flexible form should be clearly visible, as well as the large piece of foam for the arch. Also take note of the Bikila's toes; they have grippy tread higher up on the toes so grip remains even through the tiniest push off from the tips of your toes.
Enough on form, time to talk about the other great features in the Bikilas.
Reflective material! For those runners who have running tennis shoes you might notice the reflective patches on them, and the advantages those have had when you've been running at night. Well now the Bikilas do too, and in three different places.
On the top of the toes are clear fabric shapes that serve two purposes under the same name, rip stop. They are there to protect you from accidentally running the tops of the shoes on pavement or a step, but also to stop the problem of toenails rubbing holes in the material, which I've seen come back in warranties several times.
The fabric material is also like nothing we have seen (or felt) before in a Vibram. The inside of the shoe feels like a sock, nice and comfortable. Even the footbed is covered with the same material making for a very nice snug feeling. The material also seems to be a bit more stretchy then other models of the Vibrams which might help in preventing tears from repeated usage of trying to get toes into the right "socket".
Overall I'm greatly pleased with Vibram. From a small trend that has exploded in the mainstream they have still been able to hold true to minimalist running and finding the new technologies to help it get better and better. I've got a new favorite Fivefinger shoe now, maybe you will too.
See the Vibram Fivefingers Women's Bikilas.
See the Vibram Fivefingers Men's Bikilas.
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