Ask the Expert: Lee Saxby

January 29, 2011 by Jamie Page

Dear Lee
Having read around the subject of barefoot mechanics/running for a few months, I am now reconstructing my approach to the treatment of running injuries. I have personally ditched the orthotics and have been running in minimalist shoes for 2 or 3 months – to my amazement, the shin splints which have plagued me all my adult life have vanished! I do however have a couple of questions which I hope you will be able to clarify:
In your experience, are mild forefoot aches and pains a normal adaptation response in runners who change from a heel to forefoot strike in a minimalist shoe? There seems to be some scaremongering (particularly amongst the podiatry fraternity) that forefoot running may lead to metatarsal stress fracture. I am yet to see good evidence of this.
From personal experience, changing to a forefoot strike puts significant eccentric stress on an unconditioned soleus causing aching which no doubt will diminish over time with adaptation. Do you recommend supplementing this new running pattern with an eccentric calf loading program such as the Alfredson protocol or similar, or do you simply advise your clients to take it easy and nudge up their mileage slowly.
Thanks in advance.
Building adequate strength, flexibility and elasticity in the plantar arch and achilles is of paramount importance. Jumping rope barefoot is an excellent drill for conditioning this area. The eccentric strain experienced is normal but I would allow 72hrs between each barefoot session to optimise recovery. Metatarsal stress fractures are coming in POSE runners due to 'active landing' ie adding muscle action to gravitational acceleration but are rare in true barefoot technique. I would suggest looking at Steven Robbins MD website and research for anatomical aspects of barefoot running.
Lee Saxby

I had been an avid runner for years but have not run in the past 3 years due to heel pain that would not go away- I was on vacation and read Born to Run and I am now re energized to begin the barefoot running technique- I started doing the drills Lee recommends and have been running barefoot in a gym for the last week, 3 days per week, doing quarter mile runs up to a mile and have been going without shoes while at my house- I was wondering how long before I should go out with my new VIVOBAREFOOT shoes? should I wait for my feet to get acclimated while going barefoot? also, what discomfort should I expect when starting the barefoot technique- the only thing I have felt so far is strain around my ankles but that only lasted a few days- thanks for your help

Hi Dominic,
You are now ready for a mile outside with your VIVOBAREFOOT shoes! Try to stay relaxed and bouncy (cadence 180bpm) and make sure your heel lightly touches the ground . Keeping the heel elevated will strain your calves/achilles. I recommend you leave 72hrs between each run to allow your muscles and tendons to adapt.


Lee Saxby

Hello Lee,

I was recently introduced to barefoot running after recovering from an injury, so I'm breaking into it slowly. I'm bad at squatting and getting my butt parallel with the floor without raising my toes off the ground takes a lot of concentration. Besides continuing to practice, what else should I try? Should I work on strengthening my quads and my lower back, maybe? Or could it be that I am too inflexible and need to learn some new stretches?
I'm eager to hear your advice.
Thank you very much,

Hi Sarah,
The squat is a very important 'motor skill milestone' that develops the strength and flexibility required in the ankles and hips for barefoot running. There really is no substitute for squatting and most flexibility problems are 'software problems' due to lack of use rather than an anatomical 'hardware' problem. Try squatting whilst holding onto a support (bannister, table leg etc) until you become more skilfull. I strongly suggest conquering the squat before moving on to running.


Lee Saxby

Hello Lee,
I have a right leg shorter than the left one. I enjoy running and I used to run with nike shoes worn with my compensation sole. I have severely harmed my left knee 2 years ago. I would like to start running again and try VIVOBAREFOOT running shoes. I have to keep my compensaton sole inside a shoe if I don' t want my right ankle to hurt. Could I wear VIVOBAREFOOT with my sole ? The effects won' t be less effective ? I hope I won' t harm me something once again.
Thank you for your response??,
Hi Pieterson,
I suggest you master barefoot walking and the squat before trying to run. If you experience pain from these movements then I am fairly certain running will be even more painful.
The secret to running with a limb length discrepancy is to land on the forefoot and keep the knees flexed (more on the left) to level the pelvis.
Lee Saxby

Howdy Lee,
I love your training videos! Thanks so much for taking the time to prepare them!
I have flat feet and normally wear orthotics. I find that my feet are sore after running with regular shoes and orthotics.
Do you think barefoot running is today for flat footed folks? I'd like to give it a try!

Hi Nathan,
I think barefoot running is perfect for 'flat feet'. A natural foot has strong intrinsic muscles that provide an arch when it is not loaded (no weight applied) but the same muscles and the plantar fascia are flexible enough to allow the foot to be 'flat' when loaded. This a natural,flexible, elastic foot that

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