When we walk or run barefoot on hard terrain, especially rough and hard terrain (much like our prehistoric ancestors would have needed to do, to survive – it wasn’t all golf courses and groomed beach sand 2 million years ago), it becomes painfully obvious that we shouldn’t be landing with any impact! It becomes especially obvious on rough terrain that our feet should not be landing or pushing off in an abrasive way.
In short, going barefoot teaches us, almost immediately, to move more gently and gracefully. Over time, and with practice, we can become even more gentle, graceful, and efficient … and with even more practice, faster!
The idea about running being a high impact activity is based on people who never run barefoot, and especially who have NEVER run barefoot – people who are completely unaware, and shockingly comfortable, landing with forces several times their body weight with each and every step for miles and miles, until their knees, ankles, hips, or back starts to hurt. They’re comfortable only because the shoes they are wearing, or the soft terrain they’re running on, protect them from the perception of impact – not from the impact itself. And while the cushioning in the shoes may reduce your impact a bit, it is infinitesimal compared with what can be done by changing the way we run.