Vibram FiveFinger Bikila LS Review


The Bikila LSare the first barefoot shoes I have tried.  It seemed like a gamble, testing my feet with them only 3 months away from my first full marathon.  Changing things this soon before a race is always risky.  Even with a shorter distance race, it could spell catastrophe.  I know that I should stick to what I’ve been doing and wait until the time is right (after training and the race) before doing anything drastic that may endanger the health of my feet, but something told me that it was time to jump into the world of barefoot.  So many other runners (especially ultra-runners) seemed to be raking in the benefits of these “soleless” wonders.  I wanted my piece of the pie, so I went for it.



Upon buying these shoes, I knew very little about them.  I knew that with other shoes I could ease into them, a little at a time, and typically be good to go for long distance runs within a few weeks.  Not so with the Vibrams.  These bad boys can be taxing when you take the approach I did.  After a couple of weeks, I had easily logged 50 miles in them.  At the end of each run I would hobble home to nurse my sore, tender feet.  What was different about these shoes?  Each step down I’ve taken, from minimalist to here, I’ve done so with ease.  I went from low-sole, to minimalist, to my Merrells (which have a Vibram sole), and my foot naturally seemed to evolve with each switch.  Why the pain now?



After doing some serious research, I have found the answer to my problems.  Apparently Vibram is aware of people like me.  You know… the people who think they can just do things their way… throw on a new pair of shoes and go all out with them, as if they’re feet were indestructible.  So they made a very clearly written barefoot brochureto advise a safe way of transitioning into your new shoes.  I wish I would have read it beforehand.  I have now started back at square one, and am seeing much improvement in the way I run.  There are also more links here to further educate you on the science of barefoot running.  Just like anything else, if you wish to be successful, then you need study the material.  The problem was simple.  The problem was me.  I hadn’t taken the appropriate steps to work my way into the shoes.. 



So, what is so different about the Vibrams?  With the Fivefingers you aren’t simply transitioning to lesser sole, you are going to no sole.  The only thing between you and the road (or gravel) is a Dri-Lex covered 3mm polyurethane insole (thickest under the ball) and a 4mm anatomical pod outsole.  This is simply for abrasion resistance.  It is not meant to catch any impact from the concrete below your sensitive little toes.  The point is to feel the ground, allowing your body to interpret the feedback and adjust your running technique (or lack of).  As I wrote in this article, barefoot running is allowing your body to fine-tune itself.  We need to get back to using our legs and feet the way they were intended to be used.   If you have read the Getting Started guide, along with the brochure, you should already be perfecting your technique and on your way to injury-free running.   


More on the Shoe


When I first met my local Vibram dealer, he told me that the Bikila LS was built with running in mind.  He mentioned that I could use other VFFs with no problem, but he strongly encouraged the Bikila for my long-distance running needs.  The upper of the shoe is constructed with Stretch Polyaminde with TPU toe caps for protection.  Like I said, the footbed is 3mm polyurethane with a Dri-Lex Sockliner .  Go through any puddle or creek and expect to be dry within minutes.  Each shoe (at size 42 or lower) weighs a measly 6 ounces.  You literally will not realize that you have shoes on.  And that is precisely the point.  The LS simply means that this shoe has a “lace system.”  The previous Bikila had a velcro strap with no laces.  The improved version allows for those with larger feet to fit comfortably.  I have read some reviews of how the lace system has failed or even broken.  Not once, have I had any problems with the lacing.  The upper is constructed of Coconut Active Carbon for natural breathability.  This will keep your feet nice and cool on even the hottest of  Summer days. 





While I didn’t injure myself from the improper use of my footwear, I strongly advise people to read up on Fivefingers before you venture in too far.  I imagine that you could do some serious damage if you were to do too much, too quick.  I am now using my old shoes as alternates and using my Fivefingers for my shorter distances, working my way up a little each week.  I also do some toe stretching exercises.  Get to know and understand your feet.  I believe most people take for granted the workload we put on our lower extremities.  At this point, I am uncertain as to whether I’ll be running my first full marathon with these shoes.  It's still a possibility as long as I follow the suggestions.  I know one thing, I won’t kill myself trying.



[4/25/13 Update]
I have now put over 200+ miles on my original Bikila LSs!  That's right, I said original.  I am now on my second pair, and I'm very excited about getting them broken in and ready for the New River Marathon.  I can now say, with great confidence, that  you can run long distances in Vibram Five FingersMy longest run in them so far is 25 miles!  It took some time to build up the muscles (and calluses) in my feet and toes.  Give yourself some time and you will adjust.  

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Are you on the fence as to whether to buy the Originals or the LS?  Read this article for my review of the Original Bikilas.



 

If you enjoyed this article, please take a few seconds to share with your friends.  Thanks for reading and Happy Running!  




13 comments:

  1. Nice review. I've had a gray/black pair of Bikila LSes for a year, and although I only do a mile or two at a time, I'm very pleased.

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  2. I'm glad that you enjoy them! I never would have believed that I could run 25 miles in a pair of shoes with no tread. Vibram Fivefingers have truly amazed me. I went on an 11 mile run up and around the face of a mountain yesterday, over rocks and roots, through the pouring rain. [the picture above was from after the run] They held up fine and provided me with just enough protection from the elements.

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  3. Hi, I run long distances in a pair of Vivobarefoot shoes which also have a sole that is 3mm thick. Are the Bikilas even more minimal than the Vivos? Just wondering if I'll be able to make the transition easily or still need time to adjust.

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  4. Hi Tony. Thank you for dropping by ForkstoFeet. First of all, thank you for introducing me to Vivos. I have been looking for a pair of everyday barefoot shoes and they seem to have many styles that would work. As far as the transition goes, I don't believe that there would be any trouble. You should be able transition quickly. I imagine that you've already begun correcting your running technique (form) while using the Vivos, taking shorter strides and landing mid-foot. If the sole in the Vivos is 3mm also then the nerve endings on the bottoms of your feet have already been introduced to the feel of the road (or trail). For me, that was the hardest part. My feet didn't like the feel of the pavement through that 3mm sole at first. The only thing that may cause you some discomfort in the beginning would be the separated toes. This won't last long though and you will actually enjoy the freedom that Vibrams offer your feet. As with any new shoe, I would suggest alternating between the two shoes until you become acclimated.

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  5. Great review! Sometimes we learn things the hard way, but at least we learn? :)
    I've never tried Five Fingers, but have to admit I am curious about them. I might not be ready to actually run in a pair (my SKORA's still have the sole of my foot protected from the ground by 13mm), but would totally be up for bringing them on some hikes etc. After starting to use Injinji socks I've realized the pros of letting the whole foot, including the ever so important toes just do their thing!

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  6. Thanks! Yeah, those socks look pretty funky :) I know a lot of people use toe socks with their Vibrams for a little cushioning, especially when transitioning. Again, you transitioned into your Skoras perfectly. I could take some pointers from you, lol

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  7. Hey Brandon,


    I'm looking into trying out a five finger shoe for the color race. How are your Bikilas holding out? Do you still like the fit of the LS better? My only concern is with my pinky toes. I tried on a pair sometime last year and my pink toes didn't stay in the pockets, but then in might have been the shoe size.


    Also, have you tried any of the others, like the KMDs or KSOs, to compare the Bikilas to?


    Thanks!

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  8. I'm still loving the Vibrams. They're actually the only shoe that I run in now. I've been switching back and forth between the Bikila LS and the Original Bikilas. They are both great shoes. I ended up running my last marathon in the LS.



    With Vibrams, it's very important to get the size right. A friend of mine didn't have his feet sized and injured himself. If you can find a Vibram dealer near you, go by and have your feet sized. They are trained to do it properly. They do take some getting used to, as far as getting your foot in there right though.



    I haven't tried the KMDs or KSOs, but I hear that they are great for cross-training (gym work). I have always heard that the Bikilas were designed for running, so I've always used them. Thanks for the questions. I think I'm going to start writing some more about the Vibrams because the topic is getting a lot of attention. Remember to transition slowly into barefoot/minimalist running. Read all of the material you can find to help you with the change.

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  9. Haha, I just got back from REI to get my sizing right. The LS were a LOT easier to get on my feet! Unfortunately they didn't have my size in the Bikilas, so I am ordering them online. Now I play the waiting game :)

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  10. That's great man! You're gonna love them!! It'll be worth the wait, I promise. Just be sure to go through all of Vibram's suggestions that I've posted and take it easy at first. You will be in good shape to run your first race in them.

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  11. I have been slowly transitioning to minimal / barefoot shoes, I started with some Inov-8's over a year ago, then after getting used to them changed to Vibram Spyradon shoes. The change from the inov-8's to vibrams took a while. I alternated between the two for a few months until I eventually got used to the vibrams. I am now able to run up to 13 mile in the Vibrams without any bad reaction either to my feet knees or calfs. I recently purchased a pair of Bikila LS as I have been reading up on them and they appear to be a better vibram for running in. I have recently completed the second of two 3 mile runs in the Bikilas and must say they are a lot better than the spyradon shoes. The feel a lot more comfortable, I can get my toes in them a lot easier, and they fit my feet really well.
    I am hoping to run a half marathon in them in March so will be looking to increase the miles using the Bikila's over the next couple of months.
    Since transitioning to the five fingers running shoes I have found my running to feel better, with less strain on my legs, with a more relaxed running motion, and they do appear to be helping to increase my average mile pace.

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  12. That's great, Andy. Like yourself, I'm really glad that I learned about the benefits of running in minimalist shoes. I've been using the Bikilas now for over 9 months. I've run a half-marathon, full marathon, and 2 5ks with them. So I believe that they are quite capable of distance running.



    I think you will be (more than) fine for your half in March. It sounds like you've transitioned nicely, taking it slowly at first - that's the key to going minimalist. Keep us posted on your progress, and your half marathon. I bet you'll zip right through it!

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  13. Hi Brandon, Thought I'd drop a line with an update on my Half Marathon attempt.
    I can agree with your comment on the Bikilas, they are very capable of taking the longer runs.
    My feet coped really well in them over the 13.1 Miles.
    With the Bikilas coping well and my training programme going to plan, including correct food and liquid intake up to and during the race and in-spite of a slight calf strain picked up 3 days before the event i manage a fairly respectable 1:51:18.
    The positive thing is i was picking up the pace in the last 3 miles and managed a fairly good sprint finish over the last 60m, not bad at 47 :-). The legs are a little sore today, but that is to be expected after such a long run on a fairly hilly course. Still loving the Bikilas and looking forward to more running in them :-)

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