One of the most anticipated (and hottest-selling) product launches of the spring came with the arrival of the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS, the first lace-up offering in the company’s iconic line of barefoot shoes. Last year, Vibram released the Bikila as its first toe-shoe style built specifically for barefoot running — available in both a men’s version and women’s version — and this year they have added a second version of the Bikila, the Bikila LS, with a quick-lace system.
The standard Bikila has been wildly popular, but some runners with especially wide feet or a high instep required a bit more security in order to run comfortably in a barefoot running shoe. In response, Vibram created the Bikila LS, with a bit more room in the shoe’s upper and the addition of a tongue and lacing system similar to those in a traditional running shoe.
For those of us with regular, “average feet,” which Vibram FiveFingers Bikila is the right choice? Is the Bikila LS a specialty model for particular foot types, or do the laces represent an across-the-board upgrade from the Bikila? For runners transitioning from traditional running shoes, laces are certainly familiar, but are they a benefit?
Our Vibram FiveFingers sales rep, Jeff Weathersbee, has been barefoot running in FiveFingers for several years, so we thought we’d ask him a handful of questions about the barefoot running experience and how to make the proper decision when choosing between the two Bikila styles. Here’s what he had to say:
R/C: How did you get started with barefoot running? Were you already a runner, looking to try something new, or did the Vibram FiveFingers inspire you to start running in the first place?
Jeff: I was already a runner, and as a rep for Vibram FiveFingers I kept hearing about the barefoot running movement. The President of Vibram USA, Tony Post, is an accomplished runner & encouraged me to give it a try. My first run was about 25 minutes and I was amazed at how much I enjoyed running in Vibram FiveFingers. The next day, I realized that I had overdone it when I could barely walk up & down the stairs in my house.
R/C: Which Vibram FiveFingers have you tried running in? Which are you running in right now?
Jeff: I started running in the Sprint and then progressed to the Vibram FiveFingers KSO when it hit the market. Last year, Vibram released the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila, which was the first running-specific model. The Bikila was named after Abebe Bikila who won the 1960 Olympic marathon running barefoot. I have been running in the Bikila for the last year, but recently received a pair of the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS, and have really enjoyed this style too.
R/C: Having run in both the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila and Bikila LS, how do they compare with one another? How should barefoot runners decide which Bikila is right for them?
Jeff: The Bikila and Bikila LS are identical under the foot; the only difference is that the LS has a quick lace system, which allows a custom fit for a wider range of foot types. I also find that the Bikila LS is slightly easier to get on/off. Barefoot runners should definitely try on both the Bikila & Bikila LS to see which is best for them. Generally, the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila will be better for typical or low volume feet, while the Bikila LS is better-suited for people with high volume (or wide) feet, or who have a high instep.
R/C: Do you have any advice for people getting started in barefoot running with Vibram FiveFingers?
Jeff: Start slowly- that’s the best piece of advice I can give. Vibram Five Fingers recommends starting with about 10% of your normal distance & gradually increase mileage by 10-20%. The barefoot stride is different than running in traditional running shoes (forefoot strike vs. heel strike) so I would encourage people to be conservative when starting to run in Vibram FiveFingers.
Vibram FiveFingers has lots of info about barefoot running on its website, so I would also encourage people to educate themselves on the subject. We have links to a recent Harvard University barefoot running study (Editor’s note: this site features a number of excellent videos) and to our award-winning micro-site “You are the Technology.”
Based on Jeff’s advice, then, the determining factor should be personal fit. When you’re ready to start barefoot running, try on both pairs of shoes to see which is more comfortable on your foot. If you’re ordering online at rockcreek.com, ask yourself which type of foot you have; are the other shoes in your closet described as high-volume or low-volume? Do you have to size up or down with certain manufacturers?
If you know you have a wide foot or a high arch, you can start with the Bikila LS. If your foot shape is more neutral, medium volume or lower, you might be better off with the original Bikila. Now that Vibram has two versions to offer, you’re sure to find the barefoot running shoe that works best for your foot.
Here are links to each style of Vibram FiveFingers Bikila, to get you started with the decision-making process:
If you need help choosing, feel free to ask our floor staff as many questions as you need, or contact our customer service team at [email protected] or 888-707-6708. We have plenty of experience fitting Vibram FiveFingers, and love hearing all the positive feedback about running in barefoot shoes!