There are so many pro's and con's on both sides of the fence, but if you want to start running more naturally and freely, and barefoot here is a few of my tips.
1. Start slowly, start on grass or sand. Head to your local oval or park land.
I love to run for 30 minutes on grass weekly as part of my strengthening program for my feet. I use my "Five Fingers" for this.
2. Land on the balls, or fleshy part of your foot. I almost cry when I see runners in Five Fingers "Heal Striking". If you are a heal striker, you will have to shorten your stride slightly, and land on the mid section of your foot, then push through to your balls of your feet. You reduce the impact on your knees and hips, and you start to build up the correct muscles in your calves and hamstrings to allow you to run bare foot.
3. Start with a 10 minute cool down after a session to build up the strength in your feet.
Week 1 jogging 10 min, Week 2 jogging 10 min, Tempo running 5 minutes, Week 3 Jogging 10 minutes Tempo Running 10 minutes Minutes, Week 4, Jogging 10 minutes Tempo Running 15 minutes, Week 6 Jogging 10 minutes running Tempo 20 minutes.
Add 5 minutes onto this weekly and within 6 weeks you will be running for 30 minutes.
4. Get a pair of Five Fingers. Why? To prevent any nasty infections that you can pick up from running around an oval or potentially in an area where fertilisers or other contaminates may have been.
5. Stretch and Massage your feet after your new found feet training program, this will help prevent any weakness for inflexibility injuries like plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendonitis. I also love really hot Epsom Salt Baths and then a massage and a stretch afterwards to help with any niggles.
Key Stretches for Bare Foot Running.
Lower Calf Stretch or Achilles Stretch and Planta Stretch.
Step Calf Stretch with your heal dropped down off the edge of the step.
7. I personally need some more protection for my feet on a trail with my current injury history, I'm built like a bird and I want to run fast! I want to fling myself around the trails with full confidence that my feet are protected. So I would pick for a light weight trail shoe like running bare foot, Inov8 X-Talon. This shoe is great for Grass, Grass Interval Training, Sand, Dirt, Rocks. I would race "The Great Nosh 15km", or "Coastal Classic 30km" in this shoe.
8. Longer Distances with rugged fire trails with long descents, to protect the balls of my feet on the descent I would switch to the Inov8 Roc Lite 268. It has great toe protection, and extra padding under the balls of the foot but it is still so light and flexible .
9. Tape Your Ankle Joint. I am hyper-mobile, so I tape before every trail run to prevent injury. I have had so many sprains in my ankles that I have to tape. I have found that the correct taping can also help prevent Achilles tendonitis and Calf Strains. I always tape 2-3 stirrups around the heal of my foot up to my calf about 20cm on both feet to make my ankle joint more ridged with a lock. It also helps with energy lost through the down wards push off the surface with each stride. It will also prevent an overuse or weakness injury when you are swopping to a light weight and flexible trainer. So you have the benefits of a light weight trainer with the ridgity and hence more leverage of a heavier weight shoe. It is a win win!
10. Strengthen Your Calves.
I have had Achilles tendonitis in the past, so I always add in calf raises performed on a step into my weekly routine. Stand on a step and drop your heal off the edge of the step and quickly raise your heal and squeeze your calf. Reps 10, with 3 sets. Do this every day for 3 weeks. This will have your calves strengthened in no time. You will find that you can handle the extra force of "Toe Running". This is the exercise I give to my injured Achilles Tendonitis clients, and they are heal in no time.