For those looking for a true barefoot-style running shoe, reviewers say the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila is the one to beat. This minimalist shoe is praised by barefoot-running enthusiasts for its barely there feel, light 5.7-ounce weight and incredible flexibility. The Bikila protects the foot's sole during road work, lifting the foot to 7.2 mm from the ground and adding a softer, no-sock-necessary liner. Some reviewers say this makes the shoe slightly less flexible than previous models. Others say the additional padding is barely noticeable and is, in fact, a welcome addition.
Several user reviews say the barefoot-style shoe modified their running style. By design, the Bikila encourages a forefoot strike and users say this running pattern may work different muscles than a heel-strike technique. They warn of calf soreness and suggest new users work up to high-mileage runs slowly. Experts call the shoe ill-suited for everyday training and suggest using it in combination with a more traditional running shoe. Advocates say it's essential to buy the shoe according to the Vibram size chart suggestions -- not the initial feel -- as the shoe does adjust and change according to your foot. Runners with a higher arch should consider the newer Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS (*Est. $100), which features a lacing mechanism to adjust for higher insteps.
The Vibram FiveFingers Bikila first hit the running-shoe market in Spring 2010. While it has garnered media attention from Runner's World and Running Times, the shoe hasn't received the widespread coverage of more traditional top-rated running shoes. However, the Bikila has been widely embraced by the minimalist running-shoe community. We found detailed reviews on several blogs, including RunningandRambling.com and RunBlogger.com, and REI provides more than 50 user reviews.
Runner's World is the gold standard in running-shoe reviews. The Best Debut, Best Update and Editor's Choice awards in their quarterly shoe guides are considered the highest of honors in the industry. Here, Warren Greene reviews seven minimalist running shoes, and the FiveFingers Bikila earns praise for its barely there feel, light weight and flexibility. Reviewers and wear-testers say, however, that the shoe isn't suitable for day-to-day running.
Review: Minimalist Shoes, Warren Greene, April 2011
Running Times three-pronged review of the Bikila LS puts all aspects the shoe into perspective. A wear test reveals that the increased sole thickness makes the shoe more versatile. A graphic performance profile shows that it is flexible, lightweight and low profile. Finally, a fit profile details the length, toe box, midfoot and heel measurements of the shoe. It also recommends other running shoes with similar fit.
Review: Shoe Review: Vibram Bikila LS, Editors of Running Times, Oct. 2011
Running Times features several annual reviews of new running shoes. While the evaluations are detailed, the methodology isn't explained. They don't compare, rank or rate models, and no shoes are selected as the best of the year. Still, their reviews are insightful, particularly when looking for information on a particular shoe. Metzler says testers love the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila for its performance value, yet testers say it shouldn't be used as an everyday running shoe.
Review: Training Shoe: Vibram FiveFingers Bikila, Brian Metzler, Oct. 2010
RunBlogger is one of the more popular and visible running blogs. A self-described minimalist enthusiast, writer Pete Larson provides detailed, balanced reviews of several newly released running shoes. Here, the Vibram FiveFingers is praised for its comfortable, snug fit and soft interior. While Larson does say that other runners have complained about the Bikila's slightly thicker sole (the shoe sits 7.2 mm off the ground), he says it didn't make a difference in his efficiency or stride.
Review: Vibram FiveFingers Bikila Review: Pictures and First Impressions, Pete Larson, July 9, 2010
About 50 users provide generally positive feedback on the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila, giving them an overall average of 4.5 out of 5 stars. A few self-proclaimed "avid minimalist runners" note that these shoes feel somewhat rigid, but others are thrilled with the fit and performance. Some warn that the Bikila is less durable than more traditional running shoes.
Review: Vibram FiveFingers Bikila Reviews, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of Aug. 2012
Online retailer REI provides more than 70 user reviews of the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila, which earns an overall average 4.3 out of 5 stars. Reviewers say the Bikila is far better than previous Vibram FiveFingers models and beats other barefoot-style running shoes. Some say, however, that runners with high arches may find the shoe uncomfortable. Several users find that the lack of a heel strap (a feature found on sister models) sometimes causes their heels to slip when running downhill.
Review: Vibram FiveFingers Bikila Running Shoes, Contributors to REI.com, As of Aug. 2012
This blog offers several detailed reviews of newly released running shoes and running gear. The shoes are wear-tested and evaluated by Donald, a minimalist-running enthusiast. Here, the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila gets a very positive review. Donald says the Bikila performs well on both trail and road runs, and that the shoe's innovations make it well worth the price increase over the brand's previous models.
Review: Vibram FiveFingers Bikila Running Shoe Review, Donald, Sept. 16, 2010