First and foremost, I am a firm believer that whatever works for you, works for you... It's that simple. If you have had success with your shoe of choice, whether it's the Brooks Beast or the Mizuno Wave Universe, then that's great and I hope it continues to do so. That being said, I have had quite a bit of experience with answering questions about minimalist shoes (and maximalist shoes for that matter) and think I can offer a bit of insight to people looking to find the right shoe.
I think the minimalism fad popped up so quickly because people were fed up with buying shoes that were heavy and really didn't seem to offer any help in the way of injury prevention or even to reduce muscle fatigue. The only difference a lot of people noticed was that they were wearing a brick on their foot. The idea of wearing something light on their foot was exciting because it offered a faster, more free feeling. Combined with a well-known book adding "legitimacy" to the movement, the idea kind of blew out of proportion. People swung from one extreme to the other without even considering the middle ground as a possibility.
Another element that led to a large upswing in marketing of minimalist shoes was the mainstream specialty running brands and running shoe stores starting to make and sell these shoes. A lot of people thought this was due to the running shoe brands finally admitting that they were selling people expensive, injury causing running shoes, and conforming to the simple and "right" way to make shoes. On the contrary, I would like to think it is because corporations and running store owners alike are smart and wanted to make money off of a current fad like any other fashion brand would do (and its exactly the reason you see all minimalist shoes come in like 40 different color waves for one shoe).
But its not really the hype or the misinformation that bothers me most about the minimalist movement. It's the most important feature in the shoe's construction that throws me off...
STABILITY- I agree with Geoff Roes' blog post about needing more cushioning for longer distances, but I also think the body can adapt over time to get used to higher impact... if that's what you want to do for some reason. On the other hand, if a shoe is inherently unstable for a person's mechanical movement, it can be quite dangerous (kinda like running in a pair of Shape-Ups).
For some reason, stability has become a 4-letter word. Stability can be achieved in more ways than just adding a dense posting to the medial side of a shoe. More often than not just increasing the width of a shoe increases the stability. Think of it in terms of a snow shoe vs. an ice skate. A snow shoe is much more stable since it has such a wide base. But the fact that most minimalist shoes are designed in the shape of a foot....
....really bothers me. They are so heavily drafted under the arch of the foot that they offer absolutely no support to the foot or ankle (i.e. ice skate effect). This not only allows the collapse of the arch and ankle, but in most cases it actually exaggerates it, almost like the shoe is purposefully designed to throw you off balance. I have seen a large number of people with neutral mechanics running in these shoes and they almost always overpronate. Don't get me wrong, I have this problem with a lot of regular running shoes too, but I have only seen two or three "minimalist" shoes that has a decently wide base for the foot to land.
The marketing concept of a more "natural" foot strike has bothers me as well. The idea that changing your preferred foot strike is the "natural" thing to do is completely absurd. A lot of research on the topic of gait analysis has shown that any change in your gait will cause you to be less efficient. People who forefoot strike and try to change their gait to a heel strike will become less efficient and vice versa. And the concept that any one prescribed method of running will work for everyone in the world is complete BS. A natural foot strike should be one that feels natural to you. Whether its heel, forefoot or midfoot, it should feel comfortable and unforced.
With regards to all the reports of people being injured from overbuilt shoes..... Chances are, there are a few things at work here. The most common thing I've seen in the running store is a person in a shoe that is completely wrong for them (they bought it because it was $25 at BIG5 or at Nordstrom because it looked cool, something like that). They are also increasing their mileage for a race like a marathon. The combination of wearing the wrong shoe and increasing their mileage by 300% leads to their body responding in a negative way. Simple as that.
My advice for people who are having problems with their current pair of shoes or training:
-Bring your current pair of running shoes into a running specialty store. More often than not, any one of the employees here will be able to help you find the right shoe. Whether its having you run on a treadmill or down a hallway and back, they will be able to see which shoe looks best as you're running in it. Keep in mind that you want something to match your foot shape without having to wrench down the laces. If you have a narrow foot, see if they have any narrow versions in stock. For men this will be a B width, women will have a 2A width. Wide widths are usually available too, 2E or 4E for men, D or 2E for women. Make sure the shoe feels comfortable as your running in it. No amount of support will benefit you if you can't wear the shoe. Lastly, make sure the store has a good return policy so you can try the shoes out for a bit. It's often a prerequisite to be a runner if you work in a running shoe store so chances are they'd be able to offer advice on training.
-If you're training for something or just getting started, a lot of people have aches and pains associated with entry into a sport. It's really easy to blame the shoe, but more often than not its just the body saying you're loading too much too soon. Keep a mileage log and make sure you're not bumping up your mileage too quickly. If you do 10 miles the first week, then bump to 15 and feel horrible, keep in mind you've just increased your mileage by 50%. It's nice to keep things in perspective.
In the end, I think anything that gets you out the door and running is awesome. If thats a new pair of shoes that you've never tried before, GREAT! Just keep in mind that if you're going to try something drastically different, do so cautiously. If you find something that works for you, stick with it. If not, figure out what isn't working. Trial and error will help you find your way into the right shoes.
I always feel like I haven't explained my stance well enough, so if you have any questions please don't hesitate to comment.