If you're looking for the most barely-there kind of "shoe," I'd suggest the Xero Connect. It's just a basic, 4mm piece of rubber held on by the simplest strapping system. I have several pairs of VFF's and like them okay but the Xero shoes are wide open on top so lots of airflow! And who can argue with their $25 price compared to VFF's.
I did Warrior Dash last year in my KSO's. Slipped in a couple of muddy spots but never wiped out or anything. I'm not a runner and just did WD on a whim so my final time was not a concern. There were a couple peope running barefoot last year and I am thinking about giving that a try next weekend when Warrior Dash returns to Maryland.
Cool - I was born and raised in Columbia! I live in Maryland now but in all the times I've visited friends and family in Columbia I have never, ever seen anyone wearing VFF's. Good to see that they ARE out there though!
This past weekend a neighbor and I did two days of circuit hikes in Shenandoah National Park. All together it was about 15 miles of hiking - some along the AT and some on side trails. He wore traditional hiking shoes with a thick sole while I sported my KSO's! My hope was to hike some of the trail barefoot but it was too rough in spots to keep the pace we wanted to make.
I backpack and routinely wear VFF's or go barefoot depending on the terrain. I use KSO's and they have always worked well for me but I will say that they have proven slippery in a couple of muddy conditions. My pack weight is usually around 30 pounds which has never been an adverse factor for me when it comes to shoe/foot performance but you may want a VFF with a little more tread to handle the slippery conditions. If I had to recommend another style it would be the KSO Trek, otherwise stay as minimal as possible.
Nice blog! I'm not an avid blog reader but wanted to check yours out since you're about two (bare) steps ahead of me on the same path. You write very well and I appreciate your mix of technical and personal insights. The photos are beautiful too - you must live in a very scenic area or have an eye for photography. Keep it up!
My 80 year-old mother recently visited from out of state to attend our son's high school graduation; she hasn't been here since before we bought our first pair of Vibrams. Mom likes to stay busy and insisted upon sweeping. When she got to the corner of the room where my daughter and I tend to throw our VFF's, she paused and then scrunched her face into a perplexed look. Though she didn't say a word I could just tell what was going on in her head... She poked at them with her broom, shook her head, and moved on. She didn't ask and I didn't tell (she would never understand)!
My daughter and I ran in the Maryland Warrior Dash this weekend! I wore KSO's and she wore Bikilas. Neither of us had any problems at all with the obstacles or with slipping - even though my KSO's have the more slick original sole. I guess I've grown accustomed to their traction limitations and compensate by choosing my footings more carefully. There were plenty of other VFF's out on the course - I'd easily guess 10-15% which is pretty significant. I even saw one guy running barefoot. I thought about doing that myself but the uncertainty of what's buried in the mud made me err on the side of caution.
Call me crazy, but I use Tim Taylor's (Home Improvement) philosophy... "More Power!" While my feet are dry, I use an orbital sander with 120 grit sandpaper to knock down the rough stuff. You've gotta be careful not to go too long or your skin can overheat. Then while in the shower I use a pumice stone to smooth out my heels - and then I finish it off with Bag Balm.
Over the weekend I did a 13 mile circuit hike in Shenandoah National Park along the Mt. Knob/Jeremy's Run Trails. Quite a bit of the trail would have been fine for barefooting but since the terrain changes so rapidly I opted to keep my KSO's on the entire time. The best part of this hike is coming back up Jeremy's Run which is a swift moving creek. We had to cross it 14 times! The slippery rocks would have been tough navigating without any shoes but my KSO's did fine.