If you missed our first post on barefoot running, you might want to check it out before you read this product review!
I actually have two different models of the Five Fingers, the Sprint and the Bikila. Both of which I love, but for slightly different reasons.
My first pair of Five Fingers was the sprint. I originally purchased them as part of my leap into the barefoot running world and was a bit skeptical of the individual toe design. Right out of the box they were easy to get on, just slip in your feet and bam you are ready to go, no laces, no fighting with the fabric, just one quick Velcro strap. The first thing I noticed was the lack of cushion or any sort of arch support. They really felt like a slightly heavier pair of socks than shoes. It did take a bit of getting used to for the toe spaces and having fabric and a seam between each toe, but after a few minutes I was comfortable.[Ed note: Wearing toe socks, like the injinji seems to make a difference!]
Some of the great features of the Sprint are that the inside has few seams which means, less rubbing since I go without socks. The only rubbing I noticed was on the seam near my instep. I did get a bit of a rub on the first few outings but once the shoes were more molded to my feet I was fine. Since the shoe is essentially fabric and rubber, over time they take on the shape of your feet, and fit much more like a second skin than a device.
What about smell? Fortunately, the Sprints hold up great in the washer! You just pop them in and hang dry, the fabric wears great, and dirt lifts almost fully out making them look brand new again. The only lingering sign of use is the smell. These puppies really keep that sweaty foot smell. While this is of course not a pleasant thing, while on or even not near your nose the odor is not apparent.
I put about 800 miles on them before they really started to wear and needed replacement; there is actually a small hole in the bottom sole! The sad thing is the fabric still looks great.
Now for the Bikilas. I was super excited when I first heard about the Bikila since it is designed for running. Basically the changes from the Sprint, are the addition of a top layer of fabric (so the shoe covers the whole foot), treads were added to the sole for better grip while running, reflective tape was added, and the sole also had a more rigid rubber piece added under the arch (not traditional arch support but something).
While in general the feeling is similar between the shoes, I found the Bikilas are not as flexible and second skin feeling as the Sprints, especially fresh from the box. The fabric was quite stiff which made it actually difficult to get the shoes on initially which was a big deterrent for me. Over time the fabric stretched and this became less of a hassle, but they had a much longer break in period in comparison (about 10-15 wears Vs. 2-3 wears). In addition I actually felt slightly less ‘barefoot’ in the Bikilas, they are heavier than the Sprints and more shoe like with the light arch support than ‘barefoot’ like. Don’t get me wrong they are far from a traditional shoe!
Where the Bikilas really have the Sprints beat is in the general warmth of the shoe and the grip. The extra fabric over the foot and the additional thickness makes a huge difference; no snow even crept in this year (not true with the open design of the Sprints). I also find myself slipping less and feeling more stable wet pavement in the Bikilas which turned out to be a bigger deal than I thought.
The Bikilas also appear to be lasting longer in term of sole wear (I am going on close to 1000 miles in them, and they aren’t quite at replacement time) ; this is likely simply because the sole is thicker with the treads vs. new materials.
So which to choose? Well, it depends. Overall both Five Fingers are fantastic and allow for flexible use for a variety of activities. For just running, I think I will stick to the Bikilas for the most part, but for other activities, I find the flexibility and fit of the Sprints are better, so if you are looking for a more all around travel, yoga, running, climbing shoe, I would go with the Sprints or their fraternal twin the KSOs and stay away from in specific use designs.
We received no compensation for this review. It is based on solely on the author’s experience. Feel free to check out our other travel, adventure and outdoor gear reviews.