Barefoot running excites me and the idea is gaining in popularity. Why?
You wouldn't let an inexperienced driver take the wheel of Porsche or other high performance vehicle. You could but the driver would not get the most out of the vehicle. Same holds true for shoes. Today's running shoes are high tech marvels that pamper your feet. For runners to get the most out of them your feet have to be strong.
The foot is composed of 26 bones (25% of all the bones in your body), 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. All of these components work in tandem to support your body as your run and walk. Problems or flaws in the feet often can cause problems in other parts of the body. The idea is if you have stronger feet you will be a stronger runner.
While your feet will get dirty there is a growing amount of research that is showing that taking off your shoes might be a good idea; fewer chronic ankle injuries, greater agility, improved balance, prevention of varicose veins...and it is just plain natural.
My last few runs I have taken off my shoes and ran on the beach (not a bad place to run barefoot). But what about when there is no beach? There are several new shoes on the market for this growing trend. Vibram Five Fingers and Nike Free are two of the most popular.