Athletic gear design, if anything, has gone in a completely opposite direction. Over the next 50 years several major brands infused technology and clothing together to create high performance athletic gear. Shoes have been the largest focus.
Interestingly though the prevalence of lower body injury has increased since the introduction of performance footwear from brands like Nike. This increase doesn’t seem to be correlated with more runners running more miles though. As some researchers would suggest, the energy costs of running are less when running barefoot and the prevalence of injury is less frequent as well. The basic argument being that the human foot is perfectly designed for running (without the aid of shoes).
Such research has created a somewhat underground group of runners that run unshod. They ditch the shoes and hit the road with liberated toes gripping at the surface to feel every detail of the road beneath them. Runner’s like Barefoot Ted have sold the barefoot method really well and his experiment has branched out into a new wave of barefoot runners.
My personal experience is that if wasn’t for running barefoot I wouldn’t be running today. With shoes it was just too painful and felt awful. The moment I took the shoes off and started training I felt amazing and my progress was dramatic!