I recently had a chance to test out the Bikila model of Vibram Five Fingers. Their PR department thought I should feature an article on Vibram Five Fingers. I said sure, send me a pair to test out and I'll be more than happy to write a review. I decided to go with the Bikila model, although Five Fingers are minimalist running shoes, the Bikila seemed to have a bit more support and coverage than some of their other models. I also like the crazy magenta, orange, gray color scheme of the Bikila's. The women's Bikila model is also available in a silver, gray, silver and a sky blue, dark gray, gray color schemes.
According to the Vibram website: "A breakthrough in running shoe design, Bikila® is our first model designed specifically to promote a more natural, healthier and more efficient forefoot strike. While many folks have been running in their Vibram FiveFingers® for years, the Bikila® is our first model created exclusively for a more natural running experience."
You may have started to see runners using Vibram Five Fingers at recent running events. I have seen a few people using them during the past year. They are those strange looking shoes, which look a bit like a beach shoe, but with five individual pockets for your toes. Vibram are available in a number of different models for both men and women.
Barefoot Running Craze
Although I am an avid cyclist, and have been biking for over 8 years, I only started running 3 years ago. About a year and a half ago I was having a lot of foot and leg problems and started investigating other methods of running. I was a heavy heel striker, and got very interested in the mid foot method of running, to see if that would help alleviate any of my running problems. I received media copies of Chi Running and The Pose Method of Running books, both of which are proponents of the mid foot, or forefoot method of running.
Read my reviews of the Chi Running and Pose Method of Running books:
Above: Left - Vibram Bikila; Right - Brooks T6 racing flats.
Minimalist Running Shoes
Along with switching to the mid foot method of running, I've also been experimenting with different types of running shoes. Brooks is one of my sponsors, and I get all of my running shoes from them. I like to train and race in minimalist running shoes, which are very light weight and extremely flexible.
I currently use Brooks T6 racers for my events involving run distances of 6 miles or less. I like to do my mid distance runs and races in Brooks Launch and have recently purchased a pair of the Brooks Racer ST 5. Since I've been training and racing in minimalist shoes for the past couple of years, I didn't find the transition to Vibram Five Fingers to be too difficult. If you are currently training and/or racing in heavy, motion control shoes you may find that Vibram Five Fingers are not the shoe for you.
Ease Into Running with Five Fingers
Even being a mid foot striker for the past year and a half, I still had a bit of difficulty getting used to the Vibram Five Fingers. Running in the Vibram caused 3 problem areas when I first started using them:
- excessive calf stress
- tight/cramped arches
- blisters on bottom of big toes
These issues all resolved themselves after a few runs in the Vibram. I do not recommend the shoes to anyone that is a heavy heel striker. If you are currently a mid foot striker or looking to change from being a heel striker to become a mid foot striker, then you may find the Vibram Five Fingers to be the perfect shoe for you.
Bike Diva Tests Vibram Five Fingers
- 2 mile run around neighborhood
- 3.5 mile run after 28 mile triathlon bike ride
- 4 mile run around neighborhood
I've taken the Bikila's out on a few test runs. The Vibram website suggests a gradual transition from regular running shoes to running exclusively in their shoes: www.vibramfivefingers.com/faq/barefoot_running_faq.htm. Here are the top tips, taken from the Vibram website, on how to transition from a regular running shoe to running in a pair of Five Fingers:
- Tips on correct forefoot running form can be found here
- Run no more than 10% of your typical running distance for the first 2–3 weeks
- After 2–3 weeks, gradually increase mileage by 10%–20% every couple of weeks
- If you ever start to feel pain during a run, stop! You can always try again in a couple of days
- Never run 2 days in a row for the first month
- Stretch before and after each run, focusing on calves and feet, because Vibram FiveFingers running will stimulate these muscles
- If, after several weeks of training, you are consistently very sore, you need to rest and back-off on your mileage
I've raced duathlons; run-bike-run, for the past two years. And 2011 will be the year of the triathlon; swim-bike-run, for me. I participated in my first triathlon on February 6, and have an additional 13 triathlons planned for 2011. I am always looking for ways to become faster at my races, and anything that can help you save time in transitions will get my attention.
I've been experimenting with going sock-less during the bike and run portion of my bike and run trainings. I will save a bit of time not having to struggle to put socks on after finishing the swim portion of my triathlon races. I've done up to a 30 mile bike ride without socks with no problem. I use Lake triathlon bike shoes while biking and no longer wear socks while cycling, unless it is a REALLY cold day. But I haven't found the perfect running shoe to wear sock-less. Every shoe I've tried has caused blisters on one or more areas of my feet and/or toes.
Vibram Five Fingers have to be worn sock-less. The design makes it impossible to wear socks. They also fit tight like a glove, unlike regular running shoes. I buy all my regular running shoes one size larger than my street shoe size. I did my first 1/2 marathon in a running shoe that was my regular shoe size, my toes kept hitting the top of the shoe and I ended up with 2 black toe nails after that race. The toenails eventually fall out and regrow, but it is a long and ugly process.
To get the correct size of the Vibram shoes, you measure the length of your feet, in inches, and convert that to the correct Vibrum size. I take a size 40 Vibrum shoe, which coincidentally is the same size as my cycling shoe. The Vibram's fit quite snugly and take a few seconds to correctly position each of your toes into the individual toe pockets. I find I can get them on a bit faster each time I go to use the shoe, so although it seemed to take me a long time to put them on the first time, now I can get them on in just a few seconds.
I'll be doing additional test runs with the Vibram Five Fingers and will write another post on how I like running with them within the next few weeks. I plan on using them during the run portion of Sunday's bike-to-run brick workout with my Team in Training triathlon team. And on February 26, I will probably use the Bikila's at a local 5k run.
Lynn Smythe AKA the Run Diva