It's been over six months since I decided to start running barefoot.
And it's been almost three months since I have actually run without shoes on.
I got a stone bruise or something on the bottom of my foot in October, and it took a long time to heal, so I was wearing very thin shoes to protect the area. By the time I was healed, winter had hit. And honestly, I'm just enjoying my Vibram Five Fingers KSO shoes (VFFs) so much that I haven't had the desire to go out and run on bare feet, even on warm days.
So these days, I'm not a barefoot runner; I'm a minimalist shoe runner. Many runners who use VFFs say they're "running barefoot" since these and similar very-thin-soled shoes are meant to mimic being bare. But having done actual barefoot running, I can tell you that barefoot and minimalist running don't feel the same!
I enjoy not having to be quite as vigilant about where I put my feet when I'm wearing my VFFs. The thin rubber sole protects against small rocks, twigs, etc. I also like being able to run long distances without having sore soles afterward. That's possible with bare feet, but it takes a long time to build up to that point. I really appreciate having shoes on when it's chilly outside. And I think with light shoes like VFFs, I run faster than I did in my old running shoes.
Once summer comes around, I will probably once again do some barefoot running. To me, it really is fun, and it's a great way to remind one's body how a gentle running form feels. I also love how cool my bare feet feel on a warm, humid day!
But I'm guessing that even in warm weather, my longer runs will probably all be in minimalist shoes. My long runs usually include some "off-road" portions when sidewalks aren't available and there's too much traffic to run on the asphalt. I don't think I'm willing to put in the time it takes to accustom my feet to lots of rocks, twigs, and acorns, though I think the people who run technical trails barefoot are inspirational!
Despite my fondness for my VFFs, I'm glad that when I ditched my heavily-cushioned running shoes, I spent several weeks running exclusively barefoot before I started (occasionally) introducing minimalist shoes.
Being barefoot helped me to more-easily transition to a gentler running form. I have to think more about keeping my running form proper when I'm wearing VFFs, and it may have been harder to learn this form if I'd gone straight to the VFFs.
Also, bare soles naturally limit running distance, by making it uncomfortable to run too far. This allows muscles, bones, and ligaments that are being used in whole new ways to strengthen gradually, and that may help prevent "too much-too soon" injuries. I brought my mileage way down when I started running barefoot, and when I started using minimalist shoes, I continued to build my mileage gradually. I avoided injuries such as stress fractures that way.
Bare feet and minimalist shoes probably won't replace heavily-structured running shoes any time soon. But more and more companies (even the big ones) are coming out with minimalist shoes, and I don't think this is a trend that will go away any time soon. Whatever you like to wear (or not wear) on your feet, I'm just glad the options are growing!