Many barefoot runners don't actually run with bare feet. In running circles, the term "barefoot running" means not wearing padded shoes. It doesn't mean that the runners can't wear something to protect the soles of their feet from stones, sticks and other potentially uncomfortable objects that tend to find their way onto running paths.

Some runners wear sweat socks, especially when the temperature starts to drop, some prefer "running moccasins," which resemble high-tech bedroom slippers, and some use what are called "minimalist" shoes that look like typical running shoes but have flat, thin soles.

Generating the most buzz and offering the most distinctive look are what's called "toe" or "finger" shoes: a thin shoe that is shaped like a foot and has separate compartments for each toe, which supposedly mimics the grip and balance of being barefoot.

Barefoot devotee Christian Peterson prefers the au naturel approach, but he's quick to add that it's a personal choice. "Some people just aren't ready to make the jump to being completely barefoot," he said. "Which is fine. I always tell people to wear whatever they are comfortable with."