Speaking of running barefoot, I was walking in the park yesterday, and a girl ran past me totally barefoot. We were both on the gravel track, and then she ran over to the pavement and continued to run there. Is this common? I never saw anything like it! Ouch.
There is a whole barefoot movement happening (on a very small scale, I'm sure). I'm pasting some links below. I'm on the fence a bit here: I believe that using the Nike Frees and doing some of my lower-impact workouts, like kickboxing and weightlifting, really did improve the strength of my feet and may be helping me to prevent some injuries that I used to get pretty commonly (shinsplints, for example). But I dunno about running barefoot on gravel! Sounds painful!
Like with most health-related issues, there are plenty of legitimate-sounding sources and explanations on both sides. That being said, here are a couple of links both pro-barefootedness.
I have several friends who where the vibram shoes for martial arts and running. There was also a review of them in the latest issue of Runner's World magazine. The reviewer thought they were great for shorter distances (less than 6 miles) but they did take some getting used to.
I generally do weight workouts barefoot and wear cushy shoes for indoor step or hi-lo. I am thinking about these for my martial arts class and to wear on my shorter running days just to give my feet some variation when I run - which I think is healthy for them.
I think watching guys continually spit as they run would be enough of a deterrent for me. (Why do they do that? I've never felt an overwhelming amount of saliva in my mouth. Do men produce more or are they just pigs? I dread getting hit by a poorly-aimed projectile). Yeah, and the un-scooped dog poop, too. Gross.
I have to wear sneakers with orthotics all the time, even indoors, because of plantar fasciitis and other foot issues. For the time being, everything I wear has to have arch support. I can't imagine working out barefoot!