Since you asked nicely:
I prefer lightweight, thin sole footwear for any activity that doesn’t require sturdy protection. When I was a distance runner in college, most of us idiots wore thick sole running shoes when training and track/cross country racing shoes with spikes for racing. My calves and the muscles in my feet were disproportionately sore the day after any race.
Our coach ran every day in racing style shoes, minus the spikes. I was a senior when I became less of an idiot and started doing the same. Within a month, the soreness described above was 90% gone. My mechanics improved and I became a better runner. I was in my early 20’s, so I got by with the sudden switch of running 70-80 miles a week in trainers to racers. Now I’m 43, I haven’t run much in at least a dozen years. If anyone who has spent 90+% of his/her life running in thick soled trainers asks me about minimalist style shoes, I advise them to gradually increase the mileage or time in the lightweight shoes while slowly decreasing the use of the heavy trainers. I think the older you are and the more time you’ve spent wearing tanks on your feet, the more important this is. Some people might tell them to “get real.” I guess everybody has their own style?
I wear forestry boots for my job. They’re heavy, tough, and can be worn in the summer or when it’s below 0 Fahrenheit. They have a shank in the sole to disperse weight when wearing tree climbing spurs, chainsaw protection, and a protective toe cap. They’re the right tool for the job, but I wish I could wear something as light the old Nike Zoom Waffle Racers or the older New Balance Minimus.
When lifting, especially squatting or attempting any variation of the Olympic lifts, I wear weightlifting shoes. I have long legs and thighs, but a short torso, so the elevated heel helps a lot. Most “barefoot” type footwear is probably too soft to perform squats or Olympic lifts in, but I haven’t tried them all, so I could be wrong.
I ordered a pair of Xero shoes yesterday and hoping that the wide toe box will be more comfortable than the newer versions of the Minimus. Planning to use them for the two days a week I typically trail run, jog, or sprint from May to October.
I don’t have any experience with the Vibram 5 fingers and I do not think they would work for most people because chances are many of us have at least a couple toes on each foot that will not fit anywhere near the way their shoes are constructed. Too many variables, which would lead to lots of discomfort.