Monthly Archives: June 2014

Vibram FiveFingers Bikila EVO Review

A medium distance running Vibram FiveFingers (VFF) model
VFF is creating more specialized models with every season. One of their newest models, the Bikila EVO is designed to be a medium distance running shoe. It has a snug fit and a little more cushioning than most models. I think of it as a padded VFF for walking, running, or casual wear.

Quick Details
Price: $120.00 USD
Width: Narrow to Wide
Sole Thickness: 8.5 mm
Drop: 0 mm
Weight: 3 3/8 oz or 94 g
Insole: None included
Sizing: 36–42; Full sizes only
Category: Minimalist Running and Casual

Comfort & Fit
The Bikila EVO fits my wide feet very well with plenty of room for metatarsal splay. The laces make getting them on and off super easy and the lock lace clamps them down in place for a secure fit. They fit very close, sock-like in fact, but have plenty of flexibility allowing my feet to move naturally. They are too close fitting to wear with toe socks for me. The pinky toe pocket in particular is quite snug.

Due to the tight fit and lack of socks, the moisture from my sweaty feet caused a few blisters. While running, my big toe chafes against the inside of the toe pocket and 30 minutes resulted in a huge blister on my left foot. While walking, both feet got blisters in the same spot: on the top of my feet just below my big toes. I’m pretty sure that the walking blisters were caused by the rather large seam on the inside of the shoe at this area where the tongue attaches to the upper. It’s not so much that the seam is bulky because it does lay flat but the junction of materials rubbed my skin raw. Just to wear, I find the Bikila EVOs quite comfortable but functionally, my sensitive skin could not handle the chafing and moisture.

The material on the inside of the shoe is somewhat textured but in an unobtrusive way. The material of the tongue is quite soft and protects the foot excellently from any binding caused by the laces. The throat is thin but cut in such a way that I cannot feel it anywhere around my foot and ankle. The junction between the footbed and the upper is completely flat and absolutely unnoticeable.

Barefoot Feel & Function
I was initially apprehensive about the ground feel of the Bikila EVO with an 8.5 mm sole thickness, but as soon as I started walking in them, I could barely feel a difference between them and some of my much thinner minimalist shoes. The outsole flexibility is excellent, allowing me to feel very small rocks underfoot and easily bends around ground contours. I was pleasantly surprised with the great ground feel and ease of natural foot function.

Weighing in under 100 grams, the Bikila EVOs feel more like socks than shoes and I have never noticeably felt their weight.

They have an excellent grip pattern for more than adequate traction on any man-made surface. They are also grippy enough for dry, natural terrains. I would not, however, recommend them for use running in the mud

Upper Qualities
The upper is made of a polyester mesh (according to the Vibram website) and a faux suede used for the tongue and accents along the top of the shoe. The polyester is woven quite closely and doesn’t breathe all that well, especially considering their use as a running shoe. My feet do get quite sweaty in them and then stay wet. The weave does keep out some water although the seams are not sealed so water will enter the shoe through them.

There is no break-in period required as these shoes feel more like socks with a rubber sole than a regular shoe.

Like most VFF products, they are machine washable in cold and air dried. Because they don’t breathe all that well, I suspect they will eventually acquire some smell but after several walks and runs in them, mine still smell new.

Sole Qualities
The outsole is made of 2.5 mm of rubber, 4 mm of EVA for cushioning, and a 2 mm footbed layer. Although the total 8.5 mm in thickness might seem like a lot compared to most minimalist shoes, the ground feel is still great because of its fantastic flexibility.

Like all VFF products, there is no arch support designed into the shoe. In fact, the medial outsole design doesn’t even rise up and hug the arch like other models have in the past. This change allows the foot arch to flatten out completely and not feel any of the outsole up against it.

Overall Quality
The quality of the materials and manufacturing appears good. There are some visible glue marks at the edges of the toe pockets but all the seams are perfect in the review pair. The material of the upper is thinner than most conventional and even minimal running shoes so I’m not sure they will last more than one season of heavy running use.

Style
The look of the Bikila EVO is very much “minimalist running shoe”. The cut and colour accents of the upper, as well as the tongue and lace design, remind me quite a bit of old school running shoes (before the popularity of the massive heel rise). The raised bumps on the toes and bottom edges of the medial and lateral edges of the upper appear purely esthetic but do give some nice design detail.

The Bikila EVO is currently available in orange/purple, black/yellow/magenta, yellow/pink, and blue/green. Again, the colour choices are very reminiscent of current running shoe colourways with their rather loud combinations. These are certainly not shoes that could be called “subtle”.

Uses
Vibram advertises this model as their medium distance running shoe. They have a bit more cushioning than VFF’s original models (like the KSO or the Classic), in the hopes of allowing runners to run farther with less foot discomfort. I don’t really agree with this philosophy as I think a natural runner should have enough foot strength to run whatever distance they want with minimal shoe cushioning (I realize I’m likely in the minority with this opinion). However, if you want to add some rough terrain that you might want a little extra padding underfoot, I can see how these might be a good option. Although, they don’t have much in the way of traction for good grip on said rough terrain.

Although advertised for medium distance running, if this model fits you well, I think they are a nice option for walking or casual wear as well, if you don’t mind the loud colourways. They don’t have the best ground feel of the VFF models but it is more than adequate for a minimalist shoe due to their great flexibility.

Value
At $120.00 USD, they are priced on the high side of VFFs and the mid-range for running shoes. If they fit you exceptionally well and you’re looking for a running shoe for a season or two with moderate to heavy wear, this is a reasonable price to pay for a minimalist running shoe.

Summary
The Bikila EVO is advertised as a medium distance running shoe. For this purpose, Vibram has added a little extra cushioning underfoot than their more minimal models. Despite their 8.5 mm stack height, they have decent ground feel due to their excellent flexibility. Although I think runners should have enough foot strength in their feet to run any distance they like with very little cushioning, I can understand how some runners might prefer a zero drop with a slightly padded ride for longer runs or those runs on slightly rougher than all road terrains. I do think that a running shoe should be breathable and this model is sadly not.

They have a very snug fit so, at least for my feet, socks are out of the question. If you have a VFF-shaped foot and you prefer to go sockless with a snug fitting shoe, this model may be a good option for you for walking, running, or casual wear.

For more information or to order the Bikila EVO, you can check out the VFF website at: http://www.vibramfivefingers.com.