For years we have been told by the big names in running shoes that cushioned shoes are what we all need, but never do you see them claiming that they reduce sports injuries. This can actually be the opposite, as it has been found that cushioned shoes could put more stress onto your knees, hips and ankles compared to the more minimalist and barefoot shoes. This is down to the cushioned shoes forcing you into a heel-toe running pattern rather than landing in the natural mid-foot or heel strike. The idea behind the minimalist and barefoot shoe is to allow your foot to land on the ground in the same motion as though you were running barefoot, whilst still providing some protection. They come in various styles, from those designed to help you transition slowly from heel-first running to barefoot-style running, to those that just provide a thin slither of rubber under your sole, leaving your foot as free as possible.
Throughout history, running was performed barefoot or in thin-soled shoes such as moccasins. This continues today in Kenya and among the Tarahumara people of northern Mexico, who are famed for running 200 miles in one session in nothing more than a veneer of leather on their feet.
Before you go throwing out your cushioned running shoes and go legging it down the street barefoot, it can cause problems to start with, so ease yourself into it by wearing your minimalist or barefoot shoes just 10% of your normal weekly training and gradually increase it, especially if you have any recurring injuries.