I received a great question in the comments on my post about my first completely barefoot run, and rather than reply in the comments where it may be hidden from others, I thought I'd reply via a post.

The question is...

Hey guys - never really been into running but have been thinking about getting into some serious running! Have seen quite a number of links and websites about barefoot running, and given that I'm barefoot a lot during the summer I'm wondering whether I should go straight for Vibram/barefoot running rather than learning and then un-learning with running shoes.

What advice would you guys give?

First off, welcome to the world of running, and it's great to hear your considering barefoot running.

My advice would be to start running barefoot from the very beginning. As you're not a runner now, you won't have any bad habits, expensive shoes or any anxiety about getting back to previous fitness levels and speeds, so the only thing really holding you back is your body. And that's the important part as it's going to be your biggest limiting factor at first and if you're not careful, it will be the part that will scare you away from running.

By starting running completely barefoot from the beginning, you have no choice but to take it slowly and gently - your feet won't allow you to over-do it. Over time you'll find you can run further and further and find each successive run more comfortable and enjoyable. This slow progressive increase in distance and time will help your body adapt to the new rigors of running and should significantly reduce the chances of getting any injuries, and hopefully completely prevent them. You'll also be ensuring you run with good form as you'll soon find out if your form is bad as it'll hurt straight away - your feet will let you know the moment you land, rather than letting your bones or muscles tell you days, weeks or even months later.

As you're starting from scratch, start with some short barefoot walks on grass - you may not need to worry about this too much as you already spend a fair amount of time barefoot already. As you become more comfortable with this, pick things up to a gentle jog every now and then. For example mix 5 mins of walking with 30 sec of jogging and then decrease the walking times and increase the jogging times as your fitness improves and your feet strengthen, but be sure to stop as soon as your feet start to feel tender or anything else starts to feel a bit uncomfortable. Once you're comfortable with running on the grass, start introducing some barefoot walking on smooth pavements and roads. Once the road/pavement walks become comfortable you can start throwing in the odd jog and do the same thing with the hard stuff as you did with the grass.

You'll probably have a bit of muscle soreness in the first few weeks, but this is par for the course when taking on any form of exercise, however this should only be muscle soreness and should subside after a couple of days and you'll soon be running without any muscle soreness.

Essentially, you want to take things carefully and slowly. You may find your fitness levels will improve quicker than your feet can strengthen, so always listen to your feet. This is what I believe is one of the motivating factors for running barefoot: by not wearing shoes, your feet will tell you when you're doing something wrong straight away and you can correct instantly and prevent an injury. It's like touching something hot - your fingers tell you straight away and you react so you don't burn yourself. The same thing happens with your feet.

If you want to get some Vibrams, then by all means, but save it until you're running regularly without any discomfort at the time or after running. Then limit their use for longer runs and offroad/trail running when you're likely to encounter more stones or more "wear-and-tear". They don't block out the sensation of trodding on stones, however they do make it more tolerable.

I hope this answers your question and I hope you enjoy running barefoot. Despite the strange looks, it's well worth it.