My journey with barefoot running: the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila EVO

By Tay Yu Shan

When I first got my pair of Vibram FiveFingers Bikila EVO, I made the rookie mistake of running (too fast and too far) in them. And true to form, ended up with very sore calves and ankles.

Upon further research and advice (see my post on running clinic with Corrado Giamvalvo), I discovered that joining the Vibram family is not just about getting a pair of shoes.

It is in fact adapting to a whole new way of seeing and doing things, a revolutionary approach to running.

After the first painful lesson, I picked up my guide to transitioning. Lessons learnt:

  1. Start with strengthening the toes. I got into the habit of doing 10 reps of heel raises every morning when I get out of bed, and do the toe grip/exaggerated eversion/inversion whenever I find myself standing/waiting too long.
  2. Familiarise. I put on my Vibrams and go for walks in the park, on the track and even outdoors when I go for long runs at Macritchie. It helps to get used to the grip and the sole.
  3. Technique. Landing lightly and on the ball of the feet takes time to get used to.
  4. Stretch. After working the toe/ankles and calves more, more attention should be given to these muscles when stretching and cooling down to help recovery.
  5. Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so is getting used to a pair of Vibram FIvefingers. 

I have been a fan of minimalist running since I picked up Christopher McDougall’s book ‘Born to Run’ 5 years ago. Reading his adventures with the Tarahumara in Mexico, I longed to try out the toe-stride technique that he advocated. I have thus been conscientiously working on my stride and slowly acquiring shoes with less and less cushioning to prepare myself. Getting a pair of Vibram FiveFingers takes minimalist running to a whole new level. Needless to say, I was excited to try the Bikila EVO. 

The Vibram FiveFingers Bikila EVO

Initially, I alternated between my usual pair of running shoes and the Vibram FiveFingers, to ease into it. After about 2 months of rotating between two pairs, I started becoming more comfortable with just slipping on the Vibram  Fivefingers.

Unlike other minimalist running shoes, this comes with the Vibram FiveFingers Lace System. Having been used to normal running shoes for the past few years, getting used to the separated toes took some time. With a heel drop of 0mm, this is a pure minimalist running shoe. As stated above, runners should get used to minimalist running before making the switch, but with the Bikila EVO, it is hard not to get convinced.

With a sole thickness of 8.5mm, this is one of the thickest-soled Vibram Fivefingers. Called the EVA midsole, it provides light cushioning but at the same time is strong enough to protect you from any uneven surfaces or even sharp objects on the ground (provided you do not walk over them intentionally).

The shoe comes with specially developed Vibram megagrip rubber pods which offer durability and grip. This is part of the Bikila EVO’s secret to its light weight. Not only is it super light, the megagrip is a high performance rubber compound which offers unparallelled grip on both wet and dry surfaces and superior grip with rugged longevity. For this product, Vibram conducted numerous tests for traction and on a variety of surfaces such as a feedback ramp, an outdoor test park to test its grip on rocks and on slopes of 30-40 degrees incline, as well as an outdoor test in the forest and near lakes and waterfalls.

Made with Drilex, a moisture management fabric, it is a kind of “breathable” mesh that kept my feet cool and comfortable even as I pounded the surface during my runs. The Anti-Microbial Drilex Sockliner also ensures that moisture evaporates when the shoe is removed, making odors the least of my worries.

Strictly speaking, socks are not necessary if the aim is to get as close to “barefoot running” as possible. However, I chose to get a pair of socks as I figured that the extra 1 – 2 mm of cushioning will not be fatal. The injinji socks are available in stores.

Verdict:

Getting a pair of Vibram FiveFingers is more than just getting a shoe. It is subscribing to a whole new way of running. What I really appreciate about the Vibram philosophy is that it encourages you to literally take one step at a time. It is about achieving best performance through right effort, right attitude and patience.

It has been an amazing journey with the Bikila EVO so far. Whether it is running laps around the track, or going on a run around the park or for a cross country run, the Vibram Fivefingers has made me a much more conscientious runner.

It has also deepened my understanding of running and allowed me to enjoy the sport that I love most even more.

As a minimalist convert, I would recommend this shoe to anyone who is serious about minimalism. It is lightweight and easy to use, aesthetically pleasing on the eye and really a joy to have.

 

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