A New York Times bestseller that influenced people to try barefoot or near-barefoot running in the west. I was influenced to start wearing Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs). I even day hiked to Mt Whitney in VFFs.
Born To Run makes a case that modern shoes with a lot of cushioning may feel comfortable in the short run but actually result in foot and leg injuries in the long run. A cushioned shoe changes how we walk and run — we become 'heel diggers'. With minimalist shoes or barefoot, we naturally develop a 'mid-foot strike'. See this video and this video to understand the difference. 'Mid-foot strike' is encouraged by running experts, irrespective of what shoe we are wearing (modern, cushioned shoes or minimalist shoes, or barefoot). For example, see see Chi Running video on Heel Strike. With minimalist shoes is that we naturally gravitate towards mid-foot strike because heel digging is painful without the cushioning found in modern shoes. As of 2012, the jury is still out whether barefoot running is superior to running in modern shoes. There are proponents of both camps.
Born To Run has fascinating stories about the Tarahumara people from the remote and rugged Copper Canyon, Mexico. The Tarahumara grow up running dozens of miles on rocky hills, wearing minimalist shoes called Huarache. A drink called Iskiate, made from chia seeds, is their main source of energy for long runs.
What's special about the Tarahumara is their approach to running. They treat it as a community activity. So even when they participate in races, they go together! Second, they treat running as a joyful activity, to be thoroughly enjoyed! An excerpt from the book:
"Their traditional running is about working together in teams, celebrating as a community and honoring one another. Their laughter while running their traditional races was not only contagious, but inspiring. When we came back to the States and examined the faces of people running, we noticed pain, suffering, and unhappiness. I believe we get it wrong firstly by running without having correct form. Therefore, we do experience pain from injuries and loose the joy that can be found in running."
Finally, the Tarahumara are predominantly vegan! Fewer than 5% of their calories are derived from meat. Their diet consists of corn, beans, squash, chili peppers, wild greens, and chia seeds. See the following articles: (1) The diet and tesgüinadas of the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyon region of Mexico, and (2) The food and nutrient intakes of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 32(4), pp. 905-915, April 1979. Also, see The Tarahumara are 94% Vegan (YouTube).