This is part of your problem.
landing solidly on the heel
Prior to the invention of cushioned shoes, most people ran using a mid-step or forefoot, rather than with a heel strike, because as you mentioned without cushioning, the pressure of a heel-strike impacts on the foot, ankle, knee and hips.
There are plenty of questions on the site that address barefoot running, but the common thread is a slow introduction and focus on a good mid-foot or forefoot technique.
As for whether or not traditional running shoes are bad all comes down to the runner and their technique. The general concensus is that heel-strike running patterns are bad for the legs in quite a few ways as they encourage heavier foot falls. The problem is that traditional runners make heel strikes less painful, but not necessarily more safe for the leg over all.
If you learn to switch to a mid-strike and enjoy traditional runners they are fine. But, and I can't stress this enough, continuing with a heel strike gait, regardless of shoe will increase your risk of injury in the long-term.