Here's my real-world experience.
I hurt my feet hiking in overly stiff shoes. I healed them walking purely barefoot around my neighborhood. Then I learned about the whole barefoot/minimalist shoe movement.
I tried water/pool shoes. I found the neoprene to be uncomfortably sweaty and hot, but otherwise they are just as minimal as anything else and you can't beat the price. The soles on some are really squishy and allow sharp rocks to really give you some nasty bruises. I got some nasty ones trying to run on trails.
I made my own huarache sandals. I'm wearing a pair right now. The thing between the toe bugs me a little and gives me a huge callous eventually, but otherwise the soles feel pretty good. I made mine exactly like the Luna Pacers, same soling material and everything and I covered the top with suede. If I step into a creek, that suede is so slippery it's extremely hard to walk for a few steps.
I have a million pairs of zero drop and/or minimalist shoes including VFFs, Feelmax, Altra Lone Peaks, Invisible Shoes and various things I have made myself. I have run in them, hiked, backpacked. I wear almost nothing else except sometimes I wear Chacos.
I have had a hell of a time adjusting to running without ending up with sore calves. I can't seem to do it, although the last time I went for a run was the very first time I wasn't crippled so maybe I'm getting somewhere after 4 years of this. Getting the hang of walking is difficult for me, too. I still have to adjust to not coming down hard on my heels when I walk each and every time I put on my huaraches.
I have come to the conclusion that ground feel sucks because the ground hurts. Too many rocks everywhere. I have come to the conclusion that minimalist commercial shoes suck because thin soles suck, shaped foot beds suck and narrow toeboxes suck. Not a single company out there makes a truly wide toebox and too many commercial shoes are all shaped on the bottom with a concave footbed for the foot to rest in that kills my morton's neuroma and way too much toespring at the toe forcing my foot into a permanently flexed position. My feet are too small for the smallest mens and womens are always too narrow. For hiking, cushioning is a good thing. It allows me to hike long distances, go fast and keep up with my friends without having to run. It protects my feet from rocks. Actual cushiness is not important, but protection from rocks is important.
Female, 5'3", 48, Starting weight: 163lbs. Current weight: 135.
Starting squat: 45lbs. Current squat: 145 x 4.