Minimalist shoes are the opposite of the toning shoes. While the toning shoes are unstable and use this instability to increase muscle activity, the minimalist shoe relies on the lack of support to change the gait to get a training effect. The minimalist or barefoot movement is a hot topic at the moment in the running community.
The first part of the debate that is going on is just what is a minimalist running shoe? A minimalist running shoe is supposed to be so minimal that the way the foot functions is supposed to mimic the motion of barefoot without any shoes. Some believe anything covering the foot is enough to interfere with foot function. Others believe otherwise. A minimalist shoe has no cushioning like the traditional running shoe. They have no support like the traditional running shoe and they have no differential in heel height between the forefoot and rearfoot.
Are there any advantages to minimalist running shoes? They are not for everyone. The transition to a minimal running shoe from a traditional running shoe is a long slow and gradual process (at least it should be). Minimalist running shoes encourage a forefoot strike and eliminate the impacts associated with heel striking. TO run more lightly this way in the minimalist running shoes requires greater muscle activity and does predispose those muscles and associated tendons to greater injury risk. A large number of people who have made the transition are claiming that they are getting less injuries since doing so. However, all those who work in running injury clinics are also aware of the higher injury rate that is occurring. There is no clear evidence on any advantages of heel striking vs rearfoot striking, just a lot of opinions.