I love Damien's articles, and I love talking minimalist footwear with him. The amount of trail time we've had together talking about this topic now numbers into the "hours" and I treasure our time together to bounce ideas of of him, and hear his thoughts.
I suspect that we disagree on one point that I believe to be a very important distinction when considering minimalist footwear.
That point is related to the shape of the toebox, and its applicability to off trail trekking.
A minimalist shoe may have a pointy toebox (think: performance last from Inov-8) or a wide toebox that allows the toes to splay (think Vibram Five Fingers at the extreme end of this).
A barefoot shoe should have a wide toebox to be considered a barefoot style shoe.
Ergo, a barefoot shoe is a subtype of a minimalist shoe.
I don't think barefoot shoes are entirely appropriate for all Class 2 or higher travel because they do not allow you to concentrate weight onto a small surface, which may be useful in some situations for maximum traction/security on a steep slope. This is why rock climbing shoes have tiny toes (for smearing and edging) - this is obviously the extreme case, but I think, an important one.
I find that narrow toeboxes give more surer footing on steep terrain, especially tundra, and talus. I find barefoot shoes (wide toeboxes) to be fine on fine scree. The ability to precisely place a toe on a particular irregularity in the terrain is a distinct advantage for off trail hiking.
To that end, I've moved from the Inov-8 212's and 190's (2010) to the Baregrip 200's (2011) and find them to be an excellent all-conditions shoe. I still prefer the cushioning of the 212's for long distance days on hardpack trails, but now having done a number of 15+ mile days in the Baregrips, I may reverse that position soon.
What We Agree On
This transition from normal footwear to minimalist footwear is and should be a slow one: many months to several years are required to change your foot strength. Once the investment is made, though, you may never go back. The benefits come every morning after a big day -- i.e., you're ready to do it all over again because your joints don't hurt. It's beautiful.
One Last Thing I Think Is Stupid
This one goes to manufacturers: stop making flat soles that offer no traction. It's useless off the pavement, which includes steep terrain, less than ideal conditions (mud, duff, dirt, snow, muck). Put some real lugs on your shoes, for God's sake, so our weight can concentrate stress into a tiny gripper lug that keeps us from sliding around. C'mon already.
Damien, sincere thanks for spending so much energy on this topic. It's a good one.