By Mary Webb
With numerous designs to chose from, Vibram’s five-finger Treksport and Bikila series shoes will give you plenty of good reasons to be excited about your next Castle Crags climb or 10K turkey trot run for Thanksgiving. Treksport, the more adventurous of the two, offers extra support to get you on and off the trail and the Bikila is a powerhouse out on the open road. We took the two five-finger shoes on scores of outdoor excursions in the Santa Barbara, California region and we found them to be one step ahead of us.
I must tell you, after collecting water bottles, zipping backpacks and buttoning windbreakers to prepare for the Tangerine Falls, the simplicity of slipping on the Treksport was a welcome addition to our outdoor attire. While not uncomfortable to pull on, we did notice a difference in the ease of toe placement from the first time we put them on to the time we recently wore them to Seven Falls. I noticed the shoes stretched a bit after a few running sessions outdoors, without become too loose to wear. Pulling on the Treksport series was even easier with sewn in loop at the heel of the shoe, this allowed us to pull the toes into the shoe more easily.
Wearing the Vibram five-finger shoes were delightfully different than bulkier shoes we’ve worn before. Initially, it seemed our soles weren’t going to be adequately protected from the natural obstacles along the terrain. The 4mm Vibram performance rubber outsoles were responsible for allowing us to effortlessly hop over rocks, run down wet trails and traverse the steep side of boulders. We were also able to dodge the occasional banana slug, which is a good thing! There was plenty of support in the ankles, I especially noticed this aspect as I jogged over loose gravel towards the falls.
I was more aware of my steps in the Treksport. Because the shoes felt so natural, I was cognizant not to step incorrectly. This awareness reminded me to land in the center of my foot as opposed to the heel. This gave my body a feeling of better posture and core positioning. Thick EVA midsoles provided stability on the rugged granite terrain, a necessary feature to explore undiscovered paths.
Running down hill was a gentle breeze in the Treksport, TPU Toe Protection provide extra protection from stubbing the toes on uneven ground and rocks. The lug design on the sole felt like hooks in some respects, gaining traction atop small rocks along the creek.
As I became used to the natural feel of the Treksport, I gained confidence in them! When my feet started to perspire, the Coconut Active Carbon material along the top of the shoe, united with the expanded position of my toes allowed my feet to breath. I also liked the traction on the sides of Vibram’s Treksport, it offered additional protection as I scaled the deeper muddied portions of our outing.
The enclosure straps at the top of the foot helped to keep out dirt and small rocks along the trails. There are also straps that go around the ankle which kept the shoe firmly secure along downhill runs.
These Treksports sure got wet in the creek! Antimicrobial microfiber provided needed odor protection and when we were done with our day-long excursion at the falls, we simply brushed them off, rinsed the Treksport with a hose and set them out to dry. I was pleasantly surprised how well the shoe held up from being wet on several occasions; they are very durable and still held their form like new.
Vibram’s Treksport are travel friendly shoes. We plopped them in our back pack and took them on evening hikes with friends through the park. The reflective material came in handy when an evening stroll took us across the roadside to another trail.
While the Treksports are able to be used out on the asphalt in a pinch, Virbram wants to assure you are having the best possible shoe for your activities. This is where the Bikila comes into play; so named from a note-worthy marathon runner, Abebe Bikila, a barefoot Olympic runner from Ethiopia. Running is hard on the joints, and this is why the Bikila, in natural Vibram form, were a perfect fit for our morning jogs along the Santa Barbara Board Walk.
The traction aspect of the Bikila is designed a bit differently from the Treksport to allow the shoes to properly grip the pavement. The TPU toe caps we discovered in the Treksport were also evident in these shoes. Living in California, there are quite a few cracks from sun and quakes that can develop in the pavement. On one such occasion my toe was caught in one of these cracks. I was concerned the fabric would rip, but the rubber toe caps provided insurance against such tears.
We noticed more flexibility in the Bikila, as is appropriate to gain greater strides with a lighter step. Assisting this flexibility was the extra padding at the heel of the shoe.
I wore socks designed for Vibram shoes on my first trip out with the Bikila, but on my last spree I did not wear the socks. It worked out well because the Bikila have a built-in Dri-Lex Sockliner in the footbed construction. My feet did not sweat much to speak of, and unless I am going to be running great distances, I do not feel the need to wear the socks in the future.
My home treadmill was one of the activities I wore the Bikila on. The light-weight nature of the shoes made me feel I could tread for hours, and now this shoe is my current preference to wear in this type of indoor training. There is less weight to the shoe, hence is it simpler to pick up.
There are more reflective motifs on the back, sides and Velcro strap of the Bikila than in the Treksport for the purposes of night-time running. In a pinch, the Bikila can be used for a hike in the forest, but would not perform as well as the Treksport.
If you are hitting the mud or the pavement, these Vibram shoes will make you mindful of your steps.
UPPER – Coconut Active Carbon Fiber TPU Toe Protection
SOLE – 4mm EVA Midsole & TC-1 rubber
FOOTBED – Antimicrobial microfiber
Machine washable. Air dry
Women’s size 38 – 4.8oz. each, 9.6oz./pair
Colors: Champagne/Red, Pink/Black, Blue/Grey and black/charcoal
UPPER – Stretch Polyamide TPU toe caps for protection
SOLE – Anatomical Pods TC-1 Rubber
FOOTBED – 3mm Polyurethane with Dri-Lex Sockliner
Machine washable. Air dry.
Women’s size 38 – 4.8oz. each, 9.6oz./pair
Colors: Magenta/Orange/Grey, Silver/Verde/Silver, Sky Blue/Dark Grey/Grey, Black/Yellow,