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Letter to Pharmacy about MBT Shoes

Sorry for not making a post last week, but I was on vacation with my family (who am I apologizing to? I don't have any regular readers). So, here's a short post to make up for not having one last week, and I'll try to write up something else before the end of the week.

Actually, this is just quick follow up to the post about Massai Barefoot Technology Shoes. I mentioned in the beginning of that post that it was in a pharmacy where I originally saw those shoes. To be exact, the pharmacy was Harvest Drug & Gift. I'd already intended contacting them about the shoes before visiting their website, but once I did actually visit the site this past Monday, I saw just how prominently they were displaying MBT shoes. So, I sat myself right down and wrote them an e-mail, copied below.

I recently visited your store and saw the MBT shoes you had on display. They piqued my interest, so I did a little research about them. Admittedly, I'm neither a doctor nor a scientist, but from the information I could find, I did have some concerns regarding these shoes. I would assume that as doctors, your primary concern is the well being of your patients, so I thought you might be interested in what I found.

I have a detailed write-up of what I found on my personal website at:
[link - I included the actual url in the letter, but it's so long it screws up the formatting on this page.]

Here are the major points:
  • MBT shoes do show promise, but the studies to date have only been preliminary - more follow up studies are needed to confirm their efficacy.
  • There haven't been enough clinical studies done with these shoes to identify possible negative side effects.
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests that there are serious side effects possible from long term use of these shoes.
  • One study which examined relieving knee pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis did not find a big difference between MBT shoes and "conventional" New Balance sneakers.

In light of the anecdotal evidence suggesting negative side effects, the lack of clinical studies addressing the issue, and considering that at least one study found significantly less expensive shoes accomplishing nearly the same results, I would suggest being very cautious in recommending these shoes to your customers, and possibly even recommending that they only use the shoes under the guidance of a physician or physical therapist (as was suggested by one therapist quoted in one of the articles I found). Perhaps you already do counsel your customers in such a way, or do have some warning signs posted that I missed, in which case this e-mail is completely unnecessary. Or perhaps you know of some studies which do address side effects, in which case I'd be grateful if you could pass them on to me so that I could update the article on my website.

Sincerely,
Jeff Lewis

If I hear anything back from the pharmacy, I'll post it on this blog. But seeing as how it's been a couple days already without even an acknowledgement of receipt, I'm not holding my breath. Maybe I'll try snail mail if I don't hear back from them within a couple weeks.


Added 2009-07-08 I realize that I mentioned my original MBT post at the beginning of this entry, but I just want to be sure that readers don't miss it. It contains a much more in depth look at the shoes, and has generated a good discussion in the comments section::
A Skeptical Look at Masai Barefoot Technology Shoes

Comments


Jeff,

All your questions are excellent. Our belief is that any outfit that is selling the MBT should be capable of addressing your concerns.

Infortunately the US market has always been a little behind in all the new developments of the MBT and the latest data is available in German only:

http://de.swissmasai.ch/files/00014674/00001061/070118_naturbodenstudie.pdf

On our site we include a very important diagram that graphically compares the MBT with regular shoes:

http://feetfirstfitness.com/article_info.php?articles_id=6&osCsid=e9c6a755facff693f40c92d368befff7

In Switzerland where my friend Karl Mueller launched his amazing product, the MBT experience also includes training by a therapist and exercises that help prepare the user for the shoe. We include some of this training information on our site as well as having an MBT trainer that assists customers out of the store.

We have had about 3,000 customers and have accumulated an excellent knowledge of both the positives and the negatives of the shoe.

In a nutshell, MBT's 5 layer sole with its unique "Masai Sensor" reestablishes natural rolling motion of walking & standing, improving posture, toning muscles, reducing stress on knees, hips & back and increasing circulation and respiration.

The sensor manages your footstrike so that your gait follows its natural intended direction and limits the jarring induced by hard flat surfaces.

Anyone we know who has bought the shoe, and who has been fitted correctly (not an easy task as all the MBTs run differently in width and fit and the US size converson was done incorrectly on all the women's shoes) has experienced a great minimization of knee joint back and hip pain due to:

1. The improvement of their natural gait.

2. The easy and fluid transition from heal-strike to toe-off that exeeds anything that any other footwear offers.

Negative side effects are the following:

1. Not good for people with poor balance.

2. Not good for people with strained or tight tendons.

3. After a tendon operation one should wait at least six months prior to trying the MBT...

In fact the biggest negative side effect is that these shoes feel so good for your whole body that you don't want to wear anything else.

Do you already own a pair?

Have a rocking day!

Brilliant. Firstly, thanks for compiling all this research, I was finding it quite time consuming to investigate them myself, and, secondly,its so refreshing to not only encounter someone who doesn't jump to spurious conclusions, but who is willing to publicly engage!

Cheers, Victoria

During a recent visit to a hotel in Budapest i have noticed an overweighted waiter wearing MBT. I have asked him if he was happy with his MBT shoes. I cant describe how delighted he was. He smiled and started describing his health problems he had before buying MBT. He mentioned he suffered from pain on knees and back pain. From the time he wore MBT's the pain dissapeared. He repeatedly saying "no medicine, no medicine". He looked so happy. He then told me that another 4 people from that shift were wearing MBT's. I have seen with my eyes totaly 3 people wearing those anti-shoes!

Jeff

I am very converend about my expereince wih wearing MBT shoes and I a not finding any answers to some of my questions. I bought them 32-4 weeks ago becasue I have a heel spur and two knees that are suffering from arthritis. While Idid not wear them full time I wore them without much walking but usubg them fr wlaks. Ther lat several days I am having intense pain around my knees, stiffness and muscle soreness that really does hurt. So much so that I am so frustrated and the onlt thing that is different is the shoes. Have yoy heard anything to this regard.? Lorraine

Hi Jeff,

just as a quick follow-up to my last post. How would you define a clinical trial that you are asking for. The current way the medical profession conducts clinical trials, ie run or sponsored by the drug manufacturer who then selectively submits the results?

I would suggest that a clinical trial is the last think anybody wants.

Hi Jeff,

I own a pair of MBTs and one day I wore them for the entire day at the park. This was the most walking I had done in the shoes since I had purchased them. The next day I had what appeared to be a red rash on my legs from the knees down to my ankles. At first I was alarmed at the appearance of this rash, but it did not hurt or itch and within several days the rash went away. This happended a second time after wearing the shoes on a similar walking day which led me to believe it was related to the shoes. I love the shoes but want to know if anyone has had this experience and if it could be a serious health concern. Thanks, John

Thanks for the information. I love mbt's, but you are right, most retailers don't have a clue about use and training.

This happended a second time after wearing the shoes on a similar walking day which led me to believe it was related to the shoes. I love the shoes but want to know if anyone has had this experience and if it could be a serious health concern. Thanks, John

Here's a cheap and funny study the MBT people could do:
get a Masai to wear these shoes for a few days see what happens.
This should really be one of the the first things they should have tried if they wanted to be fair.
(for a extra laugh you can tell him that people pay over 200 dollars for it because they think it will make them walk as he does... watch him laugh as he puts his cheap sandals back on..)
I don't know if MBTs can actually do anything good to you (I suspect the contrary) but at least the marketing is horribly treacherous.

A year ago in July I could barely walk or sleep. I had heel spurs and plantar fascitis that cause me to be uncomfortable when sitting or lying down (my feet throbbed all night in pain) and when I tried to walk I was crippled from the contractions.

I was in Harvest Drug to pick up some meds for my mother and decided to try some on. It was summer and I was on FMLA, so I got sandals. Does it say anything that I wore nothing else for almost a year and still wear the same shoes almost daily and fall is here, again.

It took some adjustment. I tripped at first. They didn't really go with anything I wore. But, I did not care. When I put my foot down, there was no pressure point. I could always rock one way or another to shift the pressure. It took about a month for my feet to quit burning and throbbing, but I've not had that happen since.

My knees have hurt, but it was only when I switched back to New Balance or other shoes.

I just wish I had lots of money to buy about 10 pairs in different styles. I'm not a fashionable woman, but would like to at least professional at work, if possible.

I bet the pharmacy will wash their hands clean with the manufacturer stating they are not responsible for the quality of the products they sell.

Jeff it is ok, you get back on this great post. and i am very satisfied on this one, a much simple info but definitely a good source. Keep your good work.

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