Probably the most frequent question I get when people see me running barefoot is, "Doesn't that hurt?" I also am asked frequently about how far can I run barefoot before it's unbearable. I completely understand the curiosity and had the same questions before I discovered these things for myself.
To answer these questions: it doesn't hurt me at all. If it actually was painful, I would not do it. I am not a sadist. I have, however, experienced discomfort running barefoot on certain surfaces in varying conditions (intense heat, direct sunlight, freezing cold, etc.). And I had to build up my "tolerance" and adjust my form to allow my to run comfortably for more than a few miles on hard, man-made - usually concrete or pavement - surfaces. I ran my first barefoot 10k this Summer, which you can read about here, on a course with fairly rough, old pavement and experienced no more discomfort than I have running the same distances in shoes.
My personal distance limits continue to grow. The longest completely barefoot distance I have ever run is around 10 miles. My limits show themselves in the form of blisters on my toe pads and certain locations on the balls of my feet. These blisters are not a sign of sole skin that "isn't tough enough," though. Rather, I get blisters as a result of breakdown in my form resulting in improper landing on the ground surface. Hot surfaces are not as forgiving, meaning earlier blisters. Super cold surfaces cause blisters as well because numbness means not being able to perceive how my foot is contacting the ground.
Check this guy out:
If running barefoot has taught me anything, it's that our bodies are remarkable works of design - a creator who built in mechanisms that allow us to adapt to unbelievable extremes. If you don't believe me, give the following video a chance to change your mind:
Free your feet, and happy running!