After I started running barefoot, I looked into the minimalist shoes that Barefoot Ted wore in Born to Run, the Vibram Five Fingers. I enjoyed running barefoot, but wanted to have the option of more protection depending on the road conditions. Being that it was just after Christmas they were VERY hard to come by. I wanted to try on a pair before committing to buying some.
My first thought was REI - my all-time favorite store. However, they only sold them online not in their stores (at least not in my town). So, I went to my local running store. They didn't carry them - kinda figures. I searched the web for the best price, but every time I found a good price, they were out of stock for my size/color. Ultimately, I ended up back at the Vibram site and ordered them directly from the manufacturer.
When they arrived I was very excited. I stripped off my socks and began trying to work my toes into the little individual toe pockets. For me, it was almost an exercise in futility that first time. I must have fought with each shoe for ten minutes that first day. Once I got them on, I wandered about the house in my new barefoot shoes. They were very flexible. It was strange, but cool. The VFFs have a very flexible sole. They move very easily with every movement of your foot. I had a little discomfort with my little toe. It didn't want to follow the shape of the shoe. That discomfort faded after wearing them a few times. If you are like me and cannot find them in a store near you, be sure to measure your foot exactly as the Vibram site recommends for a good fit. They are snug, but comfortable.
I'm fortunate that I live in a temperate area of California. Generally speaking the coldest I've run in is in the 40s. My feet have been fine on these runs. If it was much colder, I'd probably wear my VFFs a lot more. Other than the cold, it's been raining a lot. I actually love running barefoot in the rain. Feels great and the feet are cleaner!
I took my Vibrams out for a 2 mile run. They were great! They offered protection from the rough road and rocks while maintaining most of the feeling of barefoot running. I took them out for another 2 mile run. Again felt great! I was able to feel the differences in the surface of the ground from asphalt street to smooth sidewalk, to fluffy grass. It felt like the grass was actually between my toes!
The one drawback that I experienced is that the VFFs allow me to cheat slightly on my barefoot form. Since the soles of my feet are protected, I noticed that I could hear myself scuff the balls of my feet across the ground. When I scuff my feet running barefoot, the feedback is painful enough that I don't want do THAT again. Since I'm focusing a lot on developing my barefoot form, I've gone back to straight barefoot for my runs. I'll probably go back to the VFFs when I start to explore trail running later this spring or summer.
Currently, I am using my VFFs as my shoes when I'm out and about. The VFFs allow me to go almost barefoot when I can't be barefoot. My goal is to strengthen my feet as much as possible by going barefoot or near barefoot all day. I'm hoping that this will translate into better runs. Unfortunately, I don't think my work would allow me to wear them. I want to look into the Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot Aqua shoes. I think I might be able to pull that off at work!