I did a good medium 6 mile tempo run in the zero dropped Nike Free 3.0's. First of all, the cobbler did an exceptionally good job as the sole is completely flat. I'd estimate about 15mm of sole across the bottom, toe to heel. Obviously there is a loss in ground feel compared to most minimalist shoes but it didn't bother me as I could still feel the contours of some rocks and pebbles. Overall, the shoe felt great. No issues during or after the run and I maintained the same form, technique and cadence as in the Evo's.
But here's the major difference and why I don't see elite runners changing to barefoot running or true minimalist shoes any time soon. I could see them running in zero drop running shoes but I don't see any elite runners in VFFs or Feelmax for example. Here's why. I still run faster in shoes as I can get reckless and it provides more room for error. Today, I maintained a pace probably :40 - :50 seconds faster than I would have run in my Evo's or barefoot given my level of energy and fatigue. I was fatigued today after pace work yesterday and I still floated by at a pretty good pace. Also, the energy return provided by the Free's allowed me to run with less overall effort, at least in a fatigued state. Let me be clear as I am not saying this is a good thing or if ultimately it could lead to other problems or injuries but I'm saying I understand some of the benefits of shoes when it comes to racing/speed/pace.
However, the benefits of barefoot running are huge. While running in these Free's I noticed how straight my back was, how quick my stride, how lightly I landed, and the forefoot strike continued. So this also answers the other question which Dr. Lieberman already proved which was if you have good form, you can run correctly in shoes. Dr. Lieberman showed the runner in racing shoes and traditional running shoes maintaining a forefoot strike. The HUGE question is any injury differences in looking at a runner with great form running barefoot vs. shod. As I understand this is what Dr. Lieberman is turning his attention to next.
Lastly, the zero drop is pretty amazing. Even if, and I know it's debated, the heel drop in the 3.0 is only 4mm, I could feel the difference after it was removed. For me, of all the things that could bother me about a shoe, I absolutely can't run with "any" heel differential or motion control. I'm finding it easier to deal with lack of ground feel and even minimal arch support, to a certain a degree but the heel build-up or motion control is a deal breaker. I can probably run in the Nike Free because of how flexible it is.
Just some initial thoughts.