Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: Vibram FiveFingers Bikila shoes

This installment of Fitness kit I’ve reviewed this week is subtitled “What the hell are those on your feet?”

“What the hell are those on your feet?” is a question I have become used to hearing over the past couple of weeks. You know what? I don’t care. I don’t care, because I’ll tell you what the hell these are on my feet. These are my Vibrams. And, quite simply, they rock.

Yes, they look a bit odd. Yep, they’re a bit garish. But ohhhh boy do they feel good.

I was sent a pair of Vibrams (the Bikila model) by online Vibrams retailers Primal Lifestyle. (In their shop they also sell “primal” snacks, fitness kit, books, events and consultations.) Since I started training at Castle Gym, which has…oh, you know… a SQUAT RACK and all that stuff I actually need from a gym (!), it’s become apparent that I really need shoes other than running trainers for my weight training sessions. Particularly when it comes to squats and deadlifts, trainers with lots of support and thick soles just don’t cut it. You can’t really feel what you’re doing, and you don’t feel grounded. Lots of people had recommended Vibrams to me for that “barefoot only better” feel. Here was my chance to try them out for myself!

How did I get on?

Well, the first thing to note is that they take a bit of practice to get on. My feet aren’t the most lovely things on this earth (no, no photos). My two littlest toes on each foot are all squished and bent, so it took a bit of wrestling to coax them into the correct “toe hole” of the Vibrams. But I’ve got a lot quicker at it now. There’s a definite technique, but it’s not hard, and once they’re on, they are so comfy. It really does feel like being barefoot, only better (and safer). The soles of my Bikilas are 3mm I believe, and other models of Vibram shoes are even thinner. It’s hard to describe the feeling of wearing them. You have to try it!

They’re great for wearing in the gym (although I haven’t run in them – some people do, though) and I can definitely tell the benefits of wearing them for “leg days” and squatting. I can just feel more and have a sense of being in better contact with the ground. I’ve also worn them for general walking around, including walking on pavements and gravel etc, and they’re really comfy. I’m not sure how it works, but – thin as the soles are – walking on stones and dodgy road surfaces is perfectly comfortable. But you know the real revelation? Driving! Driving in Vibrams is a whole new world of comfort. I’m sure our car’s fuel consumption has gone down, too, because I can touch the pedals so much more gently than in regular shoes.

Primal Lifestyle are Vibram’s distributor of the Fivefingers product for the UK. I tried the Bikilas, but you can get lots of different types of Vibrams, from every day slip-on types, to ones made for running (even off-road running) and all sorts, and they all come in various colourways too. Take a look.

Q&A from my week with a pair of Vibram FiveFingers

“Aren’t they a funny colour?”

Yes, they are. I rather like it. It’s not like they’re ever going to blend into the background, so why not be colourful too.

“Oh! Gosh! What are they?” (<— uttered by a lady in her 70s on the rowing machine next to me) Followed by: “well dear if you don't want them after you've done your write-up, I'll take them off you!”

“Don't the between-the-toe bits feel funny? Like the bit on a flip-flop?”

Nope, not at all. It must be the material they're made of, or the way they do the seams, but I honestly can't feel that anything's there at all. Not one tiny little rub nor hint of a blister (and that's more than I can say for many pairs of trainers – worn with socks!)

“Don’t they stink?”

Um, I’m not sure, hang on. *interlude* No, they don’t. Obviously you don’t wear socks with Vibrams, but no they’re not stinky.

“Isn’t it a bit cold to wear them this time of year?”

I wore them in the snow and was fine (this was more out of forgetfulness than bravery). They dry really quickly. If you suffer with painfully cold feet, I guess this might be a problem for you, but you could wear different shoes to the gym, change into your Vibrams once there, then change back for going outside?

“Are you going to take your Vibrams off?” (<—– uttered by my husband)

No! They're more comfortable than my own feet.

Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: Vibram FiveFingers Bikila shoes is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

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11 Responses to Fitness kit I’ve tested this week: Vibram FiveFingers Bikila shoes

  1. Cara L says:

    loads of people had them out here, I’ve heard great things for lifting (like you said, my tranied always got me to take my shoes off for squats and D/lifts….but heard not great stuff regarding running….but hey. that’s just people’s opinions 🙂

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    • thefitwriter says:

      Hi! Yes I can imagine not great for running unless the person was light and biomechanically sound – I’d be worried about impact/knees – but I’ve used them for walking, rowing and cardio machines and they’re great 🙂

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  2. Tara says:

    I can’t believe you wore them in the snow! I’ve been curious to get them but my husband said he would lock me out of the house if I wore them, haha. He doesn’t approve of the look. It’s funny because most people at my current gym wear Vibrams – they’re really starting to become popular. I think they would start to smell after a few months though….well, mine would anyway!

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    • thefitwriter says:

      LOL, only to the car and from the car to the gym – but I just didn’t think about it. I picked a friend up and he said “….are those waterproof?” and I looked down and thought “doh!” It was fine though, they dried in the car 🙂 A few people on Facebook have told me they wash them every few months just on a gentle cycle , dried naturally. See you soon (how exciting!)

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  3. Donloree says:

    Ooh! I want to get a pair one day. 🙂 I have looked at them for years.

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  4. Fifi says:

    I like to wear orthotics, not sure these would give sufficient arch support for me for walking?
    :-)xx

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  5. What a coincidence that I read your report today, after my first encounter with someone who wears them to swim in the sea! Sounds like they are very versatile and I might have to consider them when I replace my current swimming shoes.

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    • thefitwriter says:

      Ha, yes…. I hadn’t considered them for that purpose but can see why they’d be perfect. If you get one of the models which do up (rather than just slip on) they’d feel nice and secure. Hope training going great for you?

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  6. Tim says:

    Yes you can run in these, that is their intended purpose. But be very careful, your feet won’t be strong enough if you’ve worn shoes all your life. A very slow transition is needed to avoid injury. Once you have correct form you will running as it should be. Check out Professor Lieberman’s study published in Nature on barefoot running and impact.

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