since folks on here are recommending mcdougall's born to run, i've gotta jump in. i highly recommend you don't read that book, it's full of bad information. i was shocked again and again at the outrageous statistics he made about runners and running shoes. if you're interested in barefoot running, please look elsewhere.
running shoes are not the problem (as mcdougall would have us believe), bad mechanics are. consider that the barefoot/minimal running shoe movement is based on correcting running mechanics. specifically, running barefoot prevents heel striking, for the lack of cushioning on the heel (when barefoot) makes it necessary to hit the more padded forefoot. make no mistake about it, heel striking while running (as opposed to walking) is bad. heel striking places an enormous amount of stress on the shins, knees, hips and back and doing so will greatly increase your risk of injury. in addition, heel striking is a tremendous waste of energy, for it causes the runner to bounce up and down excessively and keep the foot on the ground too long. of course, the object of the game while running is to travel forward with the least amount of energy and with the least amount of stress on the body as possible, so any movement other than forward and back should be eliminated. lastly, heel striking slows you down because it causes a breaking in forward momentum. heel striking is bad, but do you need to get rid of your well cushioned, structurally sound shoes to learn to run correctly?
throwing out your well-cushioned, structurally sound shoes because your mechanics are poor (heel striking) is like throwing out the baby with the bath water. in other words, if your mechanics are the problem, you should throw out your mechanics, and keep the good running shoe. a well-cushioned and structurally sound shoe does not cause you to run poorly. a misunderstanding in running mechanics can. a combination of shock absorption and mid-foot protection from a good running shoe along with proper running mechanics is the best strategy for injury prevention.
all runners will benefit from learning to run with proper running mechanics. most of us have seen elite runners with their graceful long strides covering ground at mind boggling speeds. however, most of us probably don’t know that their stride frequency (and that of most experienced runners whether they know it or not!) is the same whether they are running 9:00 min per mile or 5:00 min per mile. 180 steps per minute (90 on each foot) is what has been proven to be the most efficient (energy saving), and the least stress producing (injury preventing) turnover for runners going both fast and slow. the differences in speed are a result of stride length. a more powerful stride results in a longer stride, but the legs turn over at the same rate. it is impossible to achieve a stride frequency of 180 steps while heel striking. the foot stays on the ground much too long and takes too long to get through the rest of the gait cycle (foot strike, mid-stance, toe-off, follow through). it should be noted, at this point, that it is also impossible to achieve a stride frequency of 180 steps while forefoot striking if the foot is plantar-flexed (toes pointing towards the ground). instead, you should forefoot strike while maintaining the dorsa-flexed position (ankle cocked back and toes pointing up). there are other factors that can prevent a runner from achieving a turnover of 180 steps per minute, but the foot strike is by far the most significant.
along with learning to run with the proper foot strike and turnover, all runners will benefit from selecting a good shoe based on a biomechanical analysis of his or her running gait. this does not mean that you must wear a heavy, non flexible, brick of a shoe. in fact, a runner should never wear more shoe than is needed. it is unnecessary to purchase a barefoot running shoe, although you may still reap some benefits in foot and ankle strength by removing your shoes at the end of a run for some (4-10) quick 100m strides. for decades, coaches have been having athletes remove their shoes at the end of a run for some barefoot strides. for the rest of your mileage, keep those old faithful running shoes on your feet and work on your running mechanics.
you may not be "born to run", but you can "learn to run".