A walking review of the Vibram Bakila LS minimalist shoe

After putting down the book, “Born to Run“, by Christopher McDougall, I made myself a fresh cup of lemon-aid and started drinking. In the Cult of Barefoot Running, we believe that you should run totally shodless, or, if you prefer, with some Luna Sandals, or Invisible Shoes, or, of course, a congregational favorite- the Vibram shoe. The truth is, we in the COBR have a lot of opinions on how you’re supposed to run barefoot and we argue about them…a lot. We confuse a lot of people (including ourselves) over the question- what is the best way to run barefoot?

I bought a pair of Invisible Shoes (the kind you put together yourself- and are also awesome, by the way), and then, just to prove I was really going to give this barefoot(ish) thing a whirl, I bought a pair of Vibram Bakila LS. There really is no method to how I dive into a subject or challenge- I just start throwing paint at a wall until the masterpiece reveals itself.

When I first tried on the Vibram Bakila, I noticed, immediately, that my toes were a little bit separated and felt somewhat pushed apart- sort of annoying. But I walked around the shoe store a bit and even ran around the inside track they had. I had no idea how to even start to judge this shoe. I’d never run in a minimalist shoe of any kind. But I took a leap of faith and bought them.

I started wearing them, everywhere. One of the biggest pieces of advice that you should adhere to (no matter what sect of The Cult you heed), is that you don’t want to just done some minimalist footwear (this goes for the naked foot, too) and go for a typical run. You have to get this through your head- your feet are wusses. They are not ready to singlefootedly support you on a 3-5 mile run. You have to start slow. You must build the muscles necessary to handle walking and running without the support your feet have come to expect from shoes that have mimicked the role of your feet.

You start slow by walking around barefoot or in these minimalist shoes. When your feet become stronger, you can start to run a little (but only a little) and you take it easy. Some say that it can take up to a year (or even longer) before your feet are conditioned and ready to handle the load of running.

Which is why I still haven’t taken my Bakilas for a run. I’ve only been at this barefoot/minimalist thing for a couple of months. And I’m trying to do it right. So what right do I have in writing a review on the Vibram Bakilas, you might wonder. Well, here you go:

I have worn them faithfully, as much as possible. I work in them, walk in them, drive in them, and attend my daily COBR sessions in them. On rare occasions, I run up a flight of stairs, or across a parking lot, when I’m late to work. (Some of you will be amazed to know that I hold a full-time job, in addition to keeping up this incredible blog. Those who know me best are amazed I can hold down a job.)

But my feet are getting stronger. Soon, I’m sure I’ll be able to run on some superior-to-my-peers ankles and achilles.

So it is on the merits of Just Walking Around that I judge these shoes. They are comfortable, flex to my feet, allow me to feel the ground and yet- they provide the protection that I need when out in a dangerous world of cigarette butts and movie theater soda-floors.

However, in the interest of full-disclosure, I have been running short distances barefoot. I’ve been running about 10-20% of my daily runs without shoes. I believe that form is learned best when feet are undressed and your heels are full-mooning the runner behind you. Once this proper form is learned, I think that you could run in just about anything. However, from the very little that I know about minimalist running, you must return to your barefoot roots, from time to time, in order to “tune up” and keep your good form.

But back to our review- As far as an everyday, minimalist shoe, which use is strictly for the sake of strengthening feet until they are strong enough to run on their own, these are terrific shoes.

I have one gripe about the Bakila LS, but it’s a small one: When I first bought this pair of shoes, the shoelace, which works on a drawstring system (which is awesome), broke away from the tab that you hold with your thumb and index finger, when tightening the tension of the shoe. It wasn’t a big deal and it’s doesn’t impair the function of the shoe. But it’s annoying to have to gingerly cinch up the lace and not worry about it slipping out of its lacing system. Fortunately for me, I managed to get a replacement pair from The Runner’s Corner in Orem (thanks, guys!)

So, all in all, a wonderful, minimalist shoe- even if I’m not running in them. If I do start to quicken my pace, I’ll rewrite this review. But for those of us who are interested in dipping our feet slowly into the world of barefoot running, these shoes are a great choice. By the way, you get used to the feel of your toes being a little further apart.

Now, if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to head back for a refill of lemon-aid.

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One Response to A walking review of the Vibram Bakila LS minimalist shoe

  1. Tim Olson says:

    Hey Nathan, good to see another fellow drinker of the koolaid. I’ve been running in the vibrams for over a year now. Okay not consistently running, but when I do, it’s in the vibrams. Tried to go full barefoot, but after a mile I decided that was a bad idea until my skin gets thicker. One thing I can say is I no longer have any running injuries. No more sore hips, knees, or ankles. Speed seems at least as good if not better. I guess we’ll see how the Bidwell Classic half marathon goes this Saturday, considering I’ve been running about once or twice a week. Haha.

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