I can't believe it's taken Runner's World until now to do a deep dive into the benefits of barefoot running:
[I]sn't the cushioning in high-end shoes intended to minimize impact and protect the foot from injuries? You'd think so, says Daniel Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University, but his research says the opposite. In tests he conducted in Kenya in 2009, Lieberman found that native runners who grew up running barefoot most often had a forefoot strike. More important, their magnitude of impact was a third of that of rearfoot-strikers in shoes—which means a gentler landing.
But was it the shoes that caused the rearfoot striking? For the typical runner in the United States, the cause -- and thus the harder impact -- may just be the shoes. In an article in Nature he published with Davis last winter, Lieberman wrote that cushioned, high-heeled running shoes "make it easier for runners to land on their heels. Furthermore, many running shoes have arch supports and stiffened soles that may lead to weaker foot muscles, reducing arch strength."
(Source: Runner's World)