Like something out of a Monty Python movie, the book inspired armies of yuppies running 10Ks and marathons on asphalt, who are always searching for "the next best thing" to get an edge in the next Race for the Cure. Predictably, opportunistic shoe manufacturers introduced lines of so-called barefoot or minimalist shoes, which had fewer materials, especially underfoot padding, yet cost more than the shoes offering good protection. Getting more for less, the shoe companies laughed all the way to the bank.
Meantime exercise physiologists at Harvard were hard at work producing slow motion videos showing that less padded shoes encourage a runner to land gently on the mid-foot, not hard on the heel, resulting in fewer injuries. Of course, what they didn't mention is that you also run much slower. (Following their logic, you could walk and get even fewer injuries. Duh. That takes a PhD?)
I noticed in the latest Runner's World shoe issue that the minimalist craze is tapering -- the shoes are getting beefier again. Turns out you get injured running barefoot too, and still run slower than you hope, so people are returning to shoes with more padding.
Sorry, but there are no easy tricks to faster or easier running. You have to train by logging the miles. Sometimes you will get injured. You have to build aerobic and anaerobic capacity and feel like hell once in a while. Even then, you will still have a pre-determined genetic mix of slow and fast twitch fibers that you can enhance some but not completely alter.
Not immune to the craze, a couple years ago I got some Vibram Five Fingers. I ran about ten yards on grass when I first got them and realized immediately they would hurt my lower legs and feet. However, I discovered they are great for lifting weights because they place you in a very stable position on a flat surface. I'm thinking about writing a book called "Born to Lift" about an old TOJ in Colorado who stumbles on a long lost tribe of Native Americans who possess enormous physical strength and endurance because they wear...