Barefoot - London - Beginner advice

Hi guys, 

I'm an ex rugby player with bad knees, lower back issues and all sorts of rugby problems! I'm in my early 30s and want to start running more often. In the last couple of years after running for about 15 mins I get a bad lower back and if I do it a few times a week a sore knee as well. 

I'm working on exercises to fix my lower back and it is slowly improving. In the summer I decided to try barefoot running as I know I run landing on heels and take far too long strides.

In the summer I attending a couple of barefoot sessions in Hyde Park and found it a great help (if sore on my calves). However, after attending two useful sessions I changed jobs and could no longer make the classes. 

So now I want to learn more but don't have the budget to spend a lot of money on a barefoot personal trainer. I can pay a small fee, but not something in the 100s. I worried about learning on my own as doing a few runs last month in minimal shoes really, really hurt my calves. And I know my technique is still wrong.

Are there are groups in London I could join that would run/teach barefoot in winter on weekends?

Thanks in advance. 


  • I converted to barefoot form over the last 18 months and all I can say is it took at least 6 months for my calves to stop hurting! You are stretching the tendons & muscles far more than you have since you ran around as a toddler so take it really slow.

    I just watched every video I could find online and did no more than 1k at a time for the first month then only increased it by 10% a week thereafter.

    Hope that helps!

  • Thanks a million, Chris. 

    I need to do 5k in May. I hope that's sensible? image

  • You'll get to 5k by May as long as you don't go mad now! 10% increase per week with a drop back by10% every 3 weeks and you should get to 5k!

  • Thanks, good to know.  I went a bit mad a few weeks ago and siuffered badly.

    What does the dropback do to help? Sorry, utter beginner!

  • It just gives your body chance to recover and adapt otherwise if you add 10% each and every week you risk getting injured.

  • James, I started the changeover to barefoot last April and now find it very comfortable. I wear 'barefoot shoes' cos I'm afraid of glass and dog poo but the technique is pretty much the same as with no shoes. You are right to give yourself time to adapt, but once you do, you won't be sorry. 

    I have found the videos and advice on the Vivo website very helpful:

    You can download an app for iPhone or iPad if you find it easier to access the info that way. Good luck! 

  • Hi Gentle Chugger, 

    Thanks a million for the advice. Appreciated. 

    Anyone able to recommend any groups during winter in London?

  • I've read the Chi Running book and watched some vids and have just been out running with a pair of Vivos.  I don't think it's that difficult really, your body will tell you if you're doing it properly or not.  If it hurts, you're doing it wrong, if it feels comfortable, you're doing it right.

  • James,

    I agree with the comments about giving it a few months.  You will get there if you stick with it, and you'll learn quite a bit along the way.

    I'm also a rugby player, and had a double fusion at the bottom of my back (L4-L5-S1) last year.  I'm now running half-marathon distance regularly without any back issues whatsoever.

    Some thoughts on technique...

    Think about short forward stride (don’t overstride), and higher cadence (foot turnover). It feels odd at first, but you get used to it very quickly.

    Don’t think too much about staying “on your toes”. That will overwork the calves and cause all sorts of issues. Think about landing flat footed and you should still instinctively land of the ball of the foot. Try rocking back slightly towards the heel until you feel you are heel striking – it is pretty obvious when you cross the line and are landing on the heel. On each landing the ball should come down first, then the foot loads fully, then the heel gently touches down. This last part is what many people neglect. It really makes it a lot easier on the calves.

    If your calves are sore, wait until they feel better before going out again. Don’t “work through the pain”. Even though it is only muscle pain, overly tight calves will cause achilles soreness and plantar problems (the sole of the foot). Make sure you do both the regular calf stretch (here) and also/especially the soleus stretch (here).

    Good luck!

    Simon (Xero Shoes UK,

  • Hi Simon, great response, really, really useful.  Encouraging to see you can run half marathons with such a bad back history. I need stories like that!

    I was certainly guilty of 'pushing through the pain' and need to monitor that. Will check out your videos and links and gie it a go this weekend.

    Really appreciate the detailed response. 


  • Always happy to help.  Let me know how you get on.


  • Really useful thread.

    I'm just getting back into running after nursing two pulled calves, as the result of trying to run "on my toes" and trying to change too quickly.

    I'm now finding thinking about landing flatfooted more helpful, as is trying to land with feet under my body and take lots of fast short steps.

    good luck

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