VIVOBAREFOOT Barefoot Running Technique Course

“I agree with you completely. After looking at what is involved, it looks like a money making scheme to profit on the barefoot movement.” This was the comment I posted on Jason Robillard’s Barefoot Running University website in reply to his blog post,…

“I agree with you completely. After looking at what is involved, it looks like a money making scheme to profit on the barefoot movement.” This was the comment I posted on Jason Robillard’s Barefoot Running University website in reply to his blog post, Barefoot Running Coach Certification: Why It’s a Bad Idea. His post about the VIVOBAREFOOT barefoot running training clinic kicked off a debate within barefoot running circles about the need or value of a certification process for barefoot running coaches. From my comment, I obviously was on the “against” side. However, after a bit more reading and the encouragement of my wife, I was on my way to Denver to be convinced otherwise.

Course Outline

To be honest, I was mostly convinced even before the course started. Had I not, I wouldn’t have invested the cost of the course and the expense of getting myself to Colorado and staying in a hotel for a week. What convinced me to give it a go began with reading more about what the course entails. The Technique Course is a five-day hands-on workshop taught by Lee Saxby during which you spend one day in a running clinic to analyze and correct running form, two days learning about the science behind barefoot running, and two days applying the lessons through coaching. While I had heard of Lee through his Born to Run fame, I wasn’t familiar with his credentials and impressive background. The small class size (max of 12) was also a positive, but what pushed me over the edge to register was the recommendation of Professor Daniel Lieberman, who many will agree is the leading barefoot running researcher.


The students were a diverse mix of people who had travelled from all over the country (and Canada too!) bringing different backgrounds and levels of barefoot experience with them. As a recreational runner who doesn’t make a living in the fitness industry, I was in the minority as most of the students were either affiliated with one type of gym or another or had jobs selling footwear. Of the twelve attendees, two others were like me — recreational runners trying to get smarter and curious about the potential to coach. All of us shared a common interest in barefoot running and a desire to learn from an expert coach.

The Course

The first day was devoted to analyzing the barefoot running techniques of each of the twelve students, making corrections, and observing improvements. I am a self-taught barefoot runner and have been running for about a year and a half. My running technique had never been analyzed, and I was eager to experience the process. While my technique turned out to be good, it was interesting to see that of the twelve students, all with barefoot running experience, only three or four ran with good technique. Fortunately, Lee was going to get us all running with the proper technique, and even those of us with a head start could certainly improve. By the end of the day, everyone had improved noticeably. Perhaps the biggest lesson to take away that day was that running is a skill, and not everyone can develop it on their own or at least in a reasonable amount of time while minimizing risk of injury.

Practicing my barefoot running technique

Practicing my barefoot running technique

Days two and three had us in the classroom delving into topics like natural laws, evolutionary anatomy, biomechanics, and psychophysiology. These were intense days covering the essentials to lay the foundation of understanding why we humans run and how we should run. The topic titles sounded daunting, but Lee has spent years distilling it to the key elements, and he was able to communicate these to us in a clear, simple, and often entertaining delivery.

The final two days gave us the chance to practice what we had learned. We took turns giving the group presentations to better prepare us to speak before our own groups of interested barefoot runners. We also practiced coaching each other. We used video analysis to assess technique followed by specialized drills to focus on problem areas, and ultimately we returned video analysis to observe changes only a slow-motion video can provide.

Earning your certification from Lee is by no means a certainty. On the final day of the course, we took a written examination to demonstrate our mastery of the material. Passing the exam is only one of the requirements to satisfy before earning your certification. You must also demonstrate your ability to coach upon returning home and to the satisfaction of Lee. Only then will you earn your certification.

Conclusions: Is there something to Barefoot Running Certification?

Let’s get back to Jason’s dismissal of the VIVOBAREFOOT certification. I think he misses the point and gets hung up on the word “certification”. When Lee Saxby and Professor Lieberman sign your certificate, I don’t believe they are claiming they have all the answers or have the best method out there (though it might well be). They are certifying you have been trained in the principles, science, and coaching methods upon which they agree will lead to proper barefoot running technique. They are certifying you meet their standards and theirs alone. Lee Saxby can only help so many runners transition in a year by himself. Not only is he confident in his methods, but he is also so incredibly passionate about helping people that he is willing to risk letting others use his methods and more importantly, his name.

The debate may continue on the merits of a certification course, but not for me. Lee Saxby and VIVOBAREFOOT are filling a much-needed void that is growing everyday. The barefoot running community is replete with great story tellers who can inspire and a handful of coaches. However, the barefoot running movement is getting ready to explode, and we need more coaches. For the lucky ones, making the transition to barefoot running is as easy as taking ones shoes off, but for most, it is not. Coaches are needed to help those people avoid injury and accelerate their learning curves.

Finding barefoot running advice

If you’re thinking of making the transition to barefoot running, or you’ve done so and you’re still struggling with your technique, or simply want a second opinion, do your homework. There are dozens of websites, books, and coaches out there with lots of good information, but be sure to include VIVOBAREFOOT along the way. There is plenty of information on the website explaining Lee’s program. If you like what you see but can’t get to London to meet him in person, he’s entrusting a growing group of coaches who share his philosophy and believe in his methods to help you learn injury-free barefoot running.

Pictured from left to right: Erwan, Jeff R, Jamie, Adrian, James, Lee, Stefan, Joe, Heather, Ryan, Morgan  Not pictured: Jeff S and Nesha

Pictured from left to right: Erwan, Jeff R, Jamie, Adrian, James, Lee, Stefan, Joe, Heather, Ryan, Morgan Not pictured: Jeff S and Nesha

By James

James's life was changed forever when he tried running in Vibram Five Fingers in July 2010. He'll occasionally go barefoot, but he primarily runs in his homemade huarache sandals. He loves to experiment with different types of minimalist footwear and has previously reviewed huaraches (homemade, Invisible Shoe, and Luna Sandals), the Teva Zilch, and the VIVOBAREFOOT Achilles running sandals.

8 replies on “VIVOBAREFOOT Barefoot Running Technique Course”

James- quick note about my original post… it wasn’t directed at VB. I wrote a follow-up post here expressing my love for VB and Saxby- they GET what we’re trying to do:

Saxby’s work is exceptional and adds tremendous value to the body of existing knowledge. You’re right, my issue isn’t with what is taught, it’s with the idea of certification in general. Certification is neither a valid or reliable predictor of competence. In short, merit can be bought. I believe there are better methods to train coaches and assess competence.

OT, but kudos for taking steps to educate yourself! 😉

Good report, but I’m more interested to see Erwan Le Corre there – founder of MovNat and follower of the Methode Naturelle. Great work from him adding another string to his bow.
Will you be looking to coach and give out tips or just self coaching?

@Dan As I’m still working toward my certification, I can’t say for sure what I’ll ultimately do with this new knowledge. For now, I know I’m a better runner for attending the course, and I certainly can offer better advice to those who ask. I was pleasantly surprised to see Erwan too. It was great to get to know him as he brought an interesting perspective to our learning — he’s also made the course that much more fun!

Its hard to know what you are doing wrong when you have no one to tell you what you are doing wrong. You can read all the books in the world on barefoot running, and watch all the Youtube videos you want, but without a third party perspective… You just don’t know what you are doing wrong.

I still can’t figure it out. I have been running for just over a year minimalist and barefoot, but still find myself getting new aches and pains. Sometimes I figure out what is going on, most of the time I don’t.

I am glad you had a positive experience at the coaching clinic. Its people like yourself that will actually leave with the knowledge and put it into action. Most people will pay the money, learn, but never put it into action.


Hello again,
my unfuddled brain wanted to apologise; I didn’t mean to dismiss your article at all and really enjoyed reading it James. It’s tempted me to look at going to London for coaching – which is easier for me being a brit.
Thanks for a great write up.

What Angie said! Welcome to the team!! I have been coaching a lot and it’s pretty amazing how much change you can see in just one session!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *