I've been running barefoot on the sidewalks here for a year or so. Why? because I can! No shit, as in India, and no snow as in Buffalo. I've learned to run on light gravel and can take the occasional pebble in stride. However I've also been hill running for about a year on the trails in Rancho San Antonio and have wanted to try running lightfoot on the trails. I've tried with varying degrees of success to run in Tevas or Chacos. They work out OK, but as a rule are too heavy and hot.
I am trying to get in shape so I can run with _. As many of you know, his nickname for me in IIT was "Slow". In fact he refuses to run with me even on adjacent treadmills, claiming I run so slow he has to make his treadmill go backwards so I can keep up.
A few months ago I got a pair of open Keen sandals and have run in those on the trails. They are quite light, the problem has been that once gravel gets in it is impossible to shake out. Also, my big toe still ends up hitting against the front of the shoe.
When I first got the Vibram FiveFingers, I went for a walk in them to try them out. A number of times I had the uncomfortable feeling that I was walking around naked, which is opuzzling becaise I walk barefoot quite a lot and have never felt "naked". The next day I went for a run in the hills, reallhy felt comfortable and ran well. SInce then each time I've run in them I've hit some personal best, mostly in terms of how high I've been able to run without stopping to walk. For example, on the second day I was able to run all the way around a loop that previously I had had to stop on twice. On the third day I ran it in the opposite, steeper direction and on the third day I ran a different trail to a point that had previously taken me 3-4 rests.
What do I note is different?
1) Sensations! You feel the ground beneath your feet. If you are a sensualist, you'll love these. You also feel the wind between your toes.
2) Lateral stability, since you no longer have that ridiculous 1.25" of sole below your heel, with a sharp edge just waiting to lever you over and hence twist your ankle. Your foot lands, and it is contact with the ground.
3) Because your heel is lower, your calf tendons get much more of a stretch and a workout. My strike was much more full-foot ball toe, and the feet muscles get a workout as well. So watch out for the lower leg workout at the beginning, similar to when you start sand running for the first time.
4) They are so much lighter, on the way back, even when I was more tired, I felt like I was flying.
5) When you finish a cross-country run, you notice all the grass stalks stuck between your toes.