So back when I started going minimalist full-time, some friends invited me to go climb Mt. Katahdin in Maine with them. I'd done this before, so I acted as the guide (LOL). We hiked a mountain called The Owl, on the first day, which was about 6 miles round-trip, and then Katahdin the next day. I wore my Vibram FiveFinger Sprints, which worked far better than I expected them to.
I carried a pair of Montrail Mountain Masochists as a fall-back shoe, but didn't need them on the first day, and only needed them on the second day after we'd already finished the mountain, but still had 2.5 miles to go to the parking lot. I sat down and noticed that my feet were literally quivering from the effort. I put the sneakers on and started running. Sneakers really do immobilize the muscles in your feet.
The video of that experience is below, thanks to Mike, who did the narrating. Henry arranged the hike, and I'm the blonde one picking my way along. As you'll see if you watch the video, the terrain was unbelievably brutal. Both Mike and Henry now wear Vibrams, in fact we all ran a 10k in Brooklyn wearing them shortly after. So as a sales pitch, my fifth and sixth hikes in Vibrams were a success. Being able to do 10 miles as your sixth hike in Vibrams is really a testament to how fast your body can adapt.
After I got back, feeling pretty full of myself, I googled "Katahdin FiveFingers" and "Katahdin Barefoot", to see if I was the first. (Lots and lots of people had asked about my shoes. At that point, just a couple of months after Born to Run was published, no one had any idea what they were.)
It turns out that a couple of sisters who became known as the Barefoot Sisters had not only hiked Katahdin barefoot, but had hiked almost the entire Appalachian Trail, from north to south, and then back. That's around 4,200 miles, in their bare feet, carrying back packs. (They only wore boots for ice, not snow.) I've not read their books yet, but I did find a podcast interview with them.
Unfortunately the podcast no longer seems to be available on-line. Luckily I saved my copy. I've posted it to Google Docs, and hopefully the player and the link below will allow you to listen to it. Let me know if you have any problems.
(And Red Cake, if you object to me hosting this, please let me know and I'll take it down immediately. It's a great interview, and I'm sure people would like to be able to listen to it.)