I've been wearing barefoot shoes for about four years and absolutely love them. I used to wear orthotics in all of my shoes for years. The doctors told me I was flat footed without an arch, but they never seemed to help me in the way I needed, and even felt like my leg joints were getting continually beat up. I had herniated two discs in my lower back a few years ago and wanted to do everything I could in order to help my recovery as well as prevent that from ever happening again. I decided to get rid of my regular shoes and begin wearing the minimalist shoes. I wanted something that would support all my joints in a way that I grew stronger as they were structurally stabilized. Since I was always told that I needed arch support I sort of believed it. I was told to trust the feedback that I would receive from the ground as my stabilizing mechanism, and that all the support my feet needed would be given to me because of the ground I walked on. I wouldn't say I was skeptical at first because I didn't really know what to expect.
So, like a lot of things I do in life, I dove right in. This would not be the best, or recommended method. You are supposed to break them in slowly by wearing them a couple hours here and there while slowly building up to all day over a couple weeks or a month. I didn't want to wait that long so I decided to go hiking for a couple hours immediately after I bought them. In fact I put them on right in the parking lot of the store and then drove to where I would hike.
All I will say is that I was hurting quite badly in my feet, my ankles, my knees, and my hips for about 2 weeks afterward. I thought I was in shape too! I stood corrected. My soreness taught me the areas that were lacking in my weak gait stabilizing muscles. This was definitely not something that was corrected by wearing orthotics for several years prior- or through my workouts that I very regularly practiced. This was something on a whole new level that needed immediate addressing so that my body could self correct through the most natural of all human patterns- walking.
I chose the Vibram Five Fingers because I wanted a minimalist shoe that allowed my body to feel as natural as possible. Personally I think the Five Fingers look really cool too because of how form fitting they are to the individual toes, so that made them much more exciting to wear. They are definitely conversation starters and have received a lot of looks/comments over the years, but more and more people are seeing them now.
Some people will make fun of them, but I think these people are the ones who just don't understand them and their great benefit. After all, there are a few different styles and several colors to meet practically anyone's tastes. I'm not trying to convince you that they are cool because I already know they are. You have to make your own decision. It all depends on what you are looking for.
In my opinion we are not born with shoes on and orthotics cannot correct issues permanently- only band aid them temporarily. We are born shoe-less because that is the way nature intends us to move about. For me, minimalist shoes are a way to get as close to what's humanly natural without the risk of stepping on debris that would injure my feet.