Billy Brown's Blog

Gear Review: Vibram Five Fingers Bikila LS

created at: 2011/10/06

There's no question that minimalist shoes are a hot commodity, and no shoes encapsulate that minimalist movement like Vibram's Five Fingers shoes. With sleeves for each toe, the shoes are hard to miss, and their fans are rabid ones indeed.

The shoes started out with a truly minimal design, just a thin rubber sole to keep feet safe from broken glass, thorns, and other sharp debris. Since their inception, people from Crossfitters to hikers to runners both hardcore and casual have adopted Five Fingers, and they've responded with a shoe for every situation: crossfitters have the Komodosport and Komodosport LS, hikers have the Trek series, and runners have the Bikila line.

I've been running in the Bikila LS ($100, the last few months, and I'm glad to say that it's an effective tool for developing and maintaining a natural footstrike.

The Bikila LS sports a beefed-up sole - 3mm insole cushioning combines with a 4mm anatomical pod outsole for a bit of protection while running on concrete. During road runs, I ran over broken glass without worry, but the flexible sole allowed my toes to splay out and made me feel every aspect of the terrain (for better or worse). There's still no cushioning whatsoever, so the Bikila LS doesn't allow for any heelstriking, enforcing a lighter step and a mid- to forefoot-centric strike. 

The interior is built more like a runinng shoe, with padding on the topline and around the ankle cuff, and the interior is pleasantly soft for use without toesocks. The most notable feature of the LS model is the speed lace system, which is a huge improvement over Vibram's velcro strap system. Speed laces allow the shoe to open wider for easier entry, it allows the shoe to accomodate a wider foot, and the lacing dissipates the pressure across the foot rather than at one point.

While I know people who exclusively run in  Five Fingers, I've found that the Bikila LS is most useful as a training tool, rather than a daily runner. I've topped out my runs at five or six miles once a week or so, just to reset my stride. Any more than that starts to beat up my feet a bit.

The Bikila LS is catered to runners, but if you haven't run with minimalist shoes, I highly recommend easing into it. Running barefoot forces you to use muscles that regular shoes neglect, so buying these guys and slamming out a 10-mile run could be disasterous. Start with walking or running short distances, then ease your mileaage up as you get used to your new shoes.

Whether you're looking for a way to maintain a proper stride, you want to see what all the toe shoe hubbub is about, or you just want to walk around barefoot without worrying about "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service," the Bikila LS is a great introduction.

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Billy Brown
Billy Brown (Featured writer)
I'm a total sucker for all things outdoors-I've been mountain and road...
Member since 09/21/09
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