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A Skeptical Look at Masai Barefoot Technology Shoes

MBT Sport GreyI was at the drug store the other day waiting on a prescription, when I noticed people trying on some funny shapped shoes that had curved soles. So, I walked over to the display and took a closer look. They were called MBT shoes, which stands for Masai Barefoot Technology, and are made by the company, Swiss Masai. They had hand-out brochures, so I took one to read while I was waiting. (Note that I will refer to the company as both MBT and Swiss Masai in this essay, as it appears that the company does the same on their website.)

For some of the research for this entry, I used MBT's website. It's an annoying, flash laden site that doesn't let you just sit and read about the technology, without having some java script decide you've spent enough time on that section and then brings up something else. Also, I couldn't find some of the statements on the website that first caught my eye on that brochure - so if you go to visit the site looking for them, you may not find them, either.

Anyway, there are a couple issues I want to discuss in this entry - briefly, whether or not these shoes have anything to do with "barefoot technology," and then in more depth, whether or not these shoes might actually have some therepeutic value.

I realize now as I'm getting ready to post this entry, that it's grown longer than I'd originally anticipated, so I'll get right to the point up front, before addressing the details. MBT shoes do show promise for treating certain conditions. However, there is anecdotal evidence that they can cause significant negative side effects. Additionally, there are not enough clinical studies addressing their efficacy or possible side effects.

I suppose I'll start out by quoting a bit from that brochure, to give an idea of what these shoes are and what the company is claiming they can do. Here's an excerpt from the page of that brochure that describes the inspiration to develop this shoe:

MBTs have been available on the market since 1996. But practical proof of the effectiveness of this technology has been provided for thousands of years by the Masai, a semi-nomadic tribe from East Africa well-known for their excellent posture. joint and back pain are mostly unknown among them, they enjoy stable health and remarkable athletic ability.

It was left to Swiss engineer Karl Müller to discover the secret of the Masai: the simple fact that walking barefoot on soft, natural ground means that they have to balance their bodies with each and every step.

Yes, the bold was in the brochure, as are all the other bolded sections in anything else I'll quote from them. Here's another excerpt from the brochure, from the page, "What Make MBT Different?"

Conventional shoes support and lead the foot, stabilizing the body in an unnatural way> This means that these imoprtant muscles lose their function. Like any other inactive muscel, they atrophy, which leads to many of the health problems of modern civilization, for instance joint and back pain.

It is relatively easy to counteract his effect: the body must be stimulated to balance itself. This is eactly what physiological footwear does, by inducing a natural instability in the body - which must constantly be compensated by the body's supporting muscle system.

And one more excerpt from the brochure, from the page, "How Does MBT Act on my Body?"

wearing MBT physiological footwear is like walking barefoot on springy moss or a sandy beach - a very comfortable feeling, but also challenging for the whole body. Because every step is a small workout for the entire body.

This training effect means that wearing MBT physiological footwear leads to a multitude of benefits: gait and posture improve significantly, relieving the pressure on the joints and back. A multitude of muscles is excercised both when walking and standing, which burns calories and stimulates the metabolism - stimulating weight loss and speeding up regeneration. MBTs also have a firming effect on abdominal, leg and buttock muscles.

So, that should give an idea of the company and its claims. Now, to address my first point, of whether this has anything to do with "barefoot technolocy," I go barefoot around the house and around my yard quite a bit, when I was a kid I used to go hiking barefoot through the woods, and I've been to the beach plenty of times. And I've gotta say, walking barefoot never seemed unstable. I mean, wearing shoes or going barefoot, you're still putting pressure on the same surface. Sand is soft if I'm barefoot or wearing shoes. And I don't see what difference this makes from the ankle up. If I stand barefoot on sand, my foot finds its equilibrium, and my body balances around my ankle. If I stand in shoes on sand, it's pretty much the same thing. So, calling this "barefoot technology," and using the Masai going barefoot as some type of validation of the technology, seems a bit silly to me.

Okay, let's just ignore the "barefoot" part. It's obvious just from one look that these shoes aren't normal. Is there something to this curved bottom sole that could have some therapeutic value?

To be fair, let's take a look at what the shoe company has to say. They have three studies listed on their website, all of which appear to have been commissioned by SwissMasai (warning - they're all pdf's):

The Sheffield study had 22 participants - 11 men and 11 women. To quote from the report, here is how the participants were outfitted:

On volunteering to take part in the study, each participant was provided with Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT) shoes (Figure 1.1) which were worn during the data collection sessions in the ‘MBT condition’ in addition to tight fitting shorts and vests. In the ‘normal condition’ participants were required to wear the same tight fitting clothing and their normal exercise shoes." And a little later in the report, "Prior to testing, participants were required to attend a tutorial session in which they were provided with their MBT shoes and instruction conforming to manufacturer’s specifications.

Here is the entire summary from that study:

The findings of the current study suggest that certain gait characteristics are affected during walking in a shoe of unstable construction. Although many of the kinematic variables remained unchanged, there were significant differences in both the trunk and the ankle angles. MBT shoes promote less forward lean during locomotion suggesting a more upright posture. Although not confirmed by the present study, the probable effect is a shift in the centre of mass position closer to the centre of the base of support, possibly aligning the body more optimally for locomotion. This, in conjunction with the lower hip moments experienced in the MBT condition may suggest reduced loading of the lower back. The changes in the ankle plantar flexion / dorsiflexion angle at the ankle, was primarily due to the reduced plantar flexion following initial contact during the MBT condition when compared to the normal condition. Kinetics at each of the joints of the lower limb were different between the MBT and normal conditions. The lower moments experienced at these joints suggests a resultant decrease in joint loading.

The major finding from analysis of the ground reaction force data is the suggestion that there is a higher incidence of transient peaks when wearing normal shoes compared to MBTs. There is some evidence suggesting that transient forces transmitted through the skeleton are the primary aetiological factor in the development of many musculoskeletal disorders. These include, osteoarthritis, stress fractures, plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis and low back pain (Whittle, 1999).

Muscular recruitment during MBT gait is also altered, eliciting an increase in motor unit recruitment for Gastrocnemius, Biceps Femoris and Gluteus Maximus and a decrease in Multifidus. The increased activity in the muscles of the lower limb can be attributed to differences in the mechanics of MBT gait, i.e. more upright posture and the production of greater propulsive forces during the dragging motion of the stance limb. Although not confirmed by this study, the decrease in multifidus recruitment may suggest that MBTs reduce the possibility of fatigue in the lower back.

This initial study into the effects of an unstable shoe construction suggests that MBTs alter certain gait characteristics and that with frequent use they may reduce the incidence of some musculoskeletal problems. In those already suffering from such disorders, MBTs may allow patients to remain mobile by reducing cyclic loading of the already damaged joint.

Here are a few excerpts from the Edinburgh Study, describing how participants were chosen & outfitted, and the results.

Ten healthy adults, 4 male 6 female, took part in this study, sampled by convenience.
All the participants were fitted with MBT shoes (Fig. 1A) in the correct size. In the control condition, participants wore their own flat- bottomed sports shoe (example in Fig. 1B)
Principal Results: Standing in the MBT shoes resulted in lower peak pressure in the midfoot (21%lower) and heel (11%) compared to in the control shoe, and much increased pressure in the toes (76%). The mean pressure was also increased in the toes and forefoot in MBT’s, and decreased in the midfoot and heel. Overall, compared to the control shoe MBT’s gave a pattern of pressure distribution that was shifted towards the front of the foot. However, more research is needed to assess their clinical application.

Thirdly, here are some excerpts from the Calgary Study:

Eight subjects participated in this study performing tests in a control shoe (Adidas SuperNova) and the illustrated MBT shoe (Fig. 1). A first test battery was performed during quiet standing, quantifying the movement of the center of pressure and the corresponding muscle activity. A second test battery was performed during walking, quantifying kinematics, kinetics, muscle activity (EMG), soft tissue vibrations and oxygen consumption for the two shoe conditions for walking in an initial testing session at the start of the project and two weeks later in a second session. Subjects were asked to wear the unstable test shoe as much as possible for the two weeks (9.5 ± 2.1 h) as suggested by the manufacturer.
  • Standing in the MBT shoe produced more movement of the center of pressure and required more muscle activity in the lower extremity to balance the body. Thus, during standing, the MBT shoe acts as a muscle training device.
  • The general walking kinematics were not changed by the MBT shoe except for the landing kinematics (flat foot) and the stride frequency (higher) and stride length (shorter).
  • The rotational ankle joint impulse for plantar-flexion for the first half of stance is higher for the MBT shoe. However, the actual plantar flexion moments are small during the first half of contact time. Thus, this increase should not be of any concern.
  • The rotational ankle joint inversion impulse for the first half of stance is substantially higher for the MBT shoe. Small changes in shoe construction could change this situation if desired.
  • The rotational ankle joint impulses for all other joints and axes are slightly decreased with the MBT shoe. The reduction is consistent for the knee joint and is on the average for all axes 19%. This result and the results for the reduced or maintained muscle activity during walking are evidence that the MBT shoe produces movement close to the preferred movement path.
  • The muscle activity of the major muscle groups shortly before and after heel strike was not changed with the MBT shoe with the exception of reduction of the tibialis anterior and biceps femoris muscles.
  • The MBT shoe required 2.5% more oxygen consumption for the same walking task, a difference that can be explained primarily by the additional weight of the MBT shoe.
  • The onset and the frequency of the soft tissue vibrations were influenced by the MBT shoe.
  • It is speculated that the MBT shoe strengthens the small muscles with small levers with respect to the rotational axes. This would reduce the joint loading which could explain some anecdotal results of less pain and discomfort.
      In summary, the results of this study showed that the MBT shoe
    • acts as a muscle training device during standing and quasistatic activities and
    • reduces knee and hip joint loading during walking.

Okay, I think I was pretty fair in presenting the studies' findings, which do look promising. However, there are a few things about the studies which do bother me. Admittedly, I'm not a doctor or a scientist, but I still think these are valid concerns.

First of all, the studies were small. Each one only had a handful of people. Sure, it's enough for a good initial test, but not as convincing as it would be for a larger group. This, though, is my smallest complaint.

Another issue for the Sheffield and Edinburgh studies, was the manner in which participants were outfitted with shoes. For the MBT shoes, the participants were fitted and given instruction. Yet, for the control group, it was whatever old athletic shoes they happened to own. They could have been $5 Wal-Mart brand shoes for all we know. Only in the Calgary study were participants given a standardized control shoe.

The biggest issue I had, wasn't with the studies per se, but in using them as a justification for endorsing this shoe. The problem is that the studies were too focused. Let me give an (absurd) analogy to illustrate this point. Consider somebody wanted to solve the problem of saving people from burning buildings. They identified that one of the ways that fire can kill people is by burning them. They also know that the fires are caused by a combustion reaction between oxygen and and the combustible materials in the house. So, they figure, that if they can eliminate the oxygen, the fire won't be able to continue, so it won't be able to burn people to death. They invent a machine that very rapidly pumps nitrogen throughout the building, displacing all of the air, removing all of the oxygen. They run some studies, and find that their invention does indeed displace the air in the building fast enough to put out the fire. Unfortunately, they missed the fact that by displacing all of the oxygen, the people in the building wouldn't be able to breathe, and so they'd all die, anyway.

Obviously, that's much more extreme than anything that would be happening with these shoes (I said it was an absurd analogy), but it illustrates the problem with these studies. The makers of MBT shoes have identified some problems (obesity, joint pain, etc.), found some of the causes of those problems, and have built a shoe to address those causes. They ran some studies, and looked specifically at whether or not their shoes were addressing those causes. Unfortunately, they weren't looking at the big picture, or for other possible side effects. The studies were too small and too short to determine what detrimental side effects might occur from prolonged use of the shoes. For something with such big claims, such as changing your entire posture and gait, and I'd want to be sure it was changing them for the better.

Okay, so that covers the studies listed on MBT's website. I was able to find one other study that looked at these shoes, as well as a mention in the procedings of a meeting of the Physiotherapy Research Society. Let's first take a look at the Proceedings of PRS Spring Meeting (warning-pdf). Here's the relevant excerpt from that document.

The effects of Masai Barefoot technology footwear on posture: an experimental designed study

P. New, J Pearce.

School of Health Professions & Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Southampton, United Kingdom.

Introduction: This study was approved by University of Southampton ethics committee and aimed to assess the anatomical changes to upright posture that occur in the sagital plane as a result of wearing Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT) footwear during standing and walking. MBT claim that their innovative unstable shoes promote a more upright posture in which musculature is strengthened and joint wear reduced [1]. This could be helpful in the management and prevention of conditions such as osteoarthritis and back pain.
Subjects: 12 students (6 male and 6 female) at the University of Southampton aged between 18 and 40 participated in this study.
Methods: Participants attended one session at a biomechanics laboratory. The kinematics of posture wearing MBT shoes during standing and gait were examined using a twodimensional motion analysis system and compared to a control shoe.
Analysis: Statistical significance was tested using a pair ed t-test and a Wilcoxon signed ranks test.
Results: Standing in MBT footwear demonstrated a statistically significant increase in plantar flexion at the ankle joint (P = 0.025) [Mean 3.02 degrees, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) -5.6 to -0.4]. Walking in MBT’s showed a decrease in trunk flexion (P = 0.007) [Mean 1.44 degrees, 95% CI -2.4 to -0.4] and a reduction in anterior tilt of the pelvis, (P = 0.003) [Mean 3.20 degrees, CI -5.06 to -1.35] at heel strike. At toe off a significant reduction in anterior pelvic tilt (P = 0.035) was found in the MBT shoes [Mean 2.35 degrees, 95 % CI]. There was no significant difference found between the two shoe conditions at mid stance.
Conclusion: MBT footwear changes certain characteristics of posture in quiet standing and walking. These findings could have positive implications for the management of conditions such as osteoarthritis and back pain, however further research is needed.

The authors acknowledge support from Masai Barefoot Technology PLC.

1. Amann B, Amann F. Destabilise, sensitise, mobilise. Journal of Prevention and Rehabilitation. 2004; Special edition: 3-6.

I have the same feelings about this study as I did from ones listed on the MBT website - promising, but not in depth enough or over a long enough time interval to look for side effects.

So, let's move on to the study, Unstable Shoe Construction and Reduction of Pain in Osteoarthritis Patients, published in the October 2006 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Excercise Study, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine. I don't have access to the full text of the report, but here's the abstract:

Unstable Shoe Construction and Reduction of Pain in Osteoarthritis Patients.


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 38(10):1701-1708, October 2006.
Purpose: The purposes of this study were to assess a) the effectiveness of Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT) shoe in reducing knee pain in persons with knee osteoarthritis (OA) and (b) changes in balance, ankle and knee ROM, and ankle strength compared with a high-end walking shoe for 12 wk.

Methods: The research design was a randomized controlled trial (123 subjects, knee OA). Subjects were randomized to a MBT (N = 57) or a control shoe (N = 66). A Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC) OA index, BMI, balance, active ROM, and ankle torque were quantified at week 0, 3, 6, 9, and 12. Two-sample t-tests were done for between-group comparisons.

Results: There was no significant difference between groups in total pain score. A significant reduction over the 12-wk period was found for both shoe conditions (-42/500 or 25.6% MBT, -46.2 or 27.1% control). There was no significant group difference in pain during walking (t = -1.09, P = 0.28). Pain during walking was significantly reduced by 5.2/100 mm in the MBT and 9.7/100 mm in the control group. Total pain showed a significant reduction for the MBT -27.4/500 (-16.6%) and the control group -28.9/500 (-17.0%) between baseline and week 3. Between week 3 and 6, there was a significant reduction for the MBT group only (-27.2/500 or -20.0%). There was a significant increase in the static balance between baseline and 12 wk in the MBT group only, although the difference between groups was not significant.

Discussion: The results indicate that special shoe interventions can reduce pain in subjects with moderate knee OA.

(C)2006The American College of Sports Medicine

There is further discussion of this study at a site called Bondolier.

This is a study with a decent sized study group, a good control group, and lasted for a decent interval. I still would have liked to see more looking for side effects, but maybe that's too much for an initial study. Anyway, this study did show some good therapeutic value for the shoes, but it didn't seem to be much different from that achieved with a pair of conventional New Balance sneakers.

Finally, I was able to find a decent newspaper article that took a critical look at these shoes, Sole searching, datelined April 24, 2007, from The Guardian. The article starts off explaining the concept of the shoes, and lists the studies I've already addressed above. It then goes on to quote a few critics.

Nicki de Leon, a consultant physiotherapist at the sports and spinal clinic in Harley Street, believes that, for most wearers, MBTs can do more harm than good. "This footwear fundamentally alters the way someone walks, shifting their normal biomechanics so that instead of someone striking their heel to the floor and transferring the weight forward, they are effectively being rocked forward by their shoe." While not disputing that MBTs work some muscles harder, she argues that it is the wrong muscles that are tested. "What happens when you wear them is that the superficial muscles - such as the hamstrings, calfs and gluteal muscles in the legs and buttocks - are worked rather than the deep muscles that support the spine. When any superficial muscle is overworked, it becomes stiff and rigid, and that is precisely what I have seen happening in people wearing MBTs. I am not a fan of them at all."

Noel Kingsley, a leading practitioner of the Alexander Technique in London, agrees that the shoes are overrated. "They encourage a shorter stride than most of us are accustomed to. My concern is that this type of footwear lifts you quite high off the ground and requires you to walk in a special way. Once you get used to them, you feel quite odd without them. So what happens when you take them off?"

It is a question that also concerns de Leon. "A lot of people use them to walk distances, such as to work, but when you take them off your muscles forget what they are supposed to do. When you wear them, they change your alignment, but you don't know what's happening to your posture when you take them off and it's often not good."

In the long term, she says, the rigidity and stiffness of the muscles overworked by MBT shoes can cause pain and vulnerability to other injuries. "They are particularly risky for people with an existing unstable pelvis - quite a common problem - as they compound the instability. I really hope nobody runs in them as the outcome in terms of injuries could be dire." While MBT doesn't actively encourage running in its shoes, it doesn't discourage it either.

Actually, to address that last sentence, when I read Swiss Masai's FAQ, it said:

Yes, MBTs are perfect for jogging, as demonstrated in the video/DVD. MBTs are suitable for training but not for competitions. Always make sure that you are comfortable walking in them first, starting with the recommended time.

Going back to the Guardian article, here's another quote:

Alex Hazell, 28, from London started wearing MBTs four years ago. "At first I thought they were great, but then my physiotherapist pointed out that I was getting shoulder problems as the shoe was throwing me forward posturally. In the end I ditched them for a properly fitted training shoe."

They also quoted Sammy Margo of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, who said that MBT shoes could be useful, but added:

However, they don't work for everyone. For people who spend a lot of time at a desk, have hypermobility in their spine and weak core stability, MBTs could make their postural problems much worse.

And then, in the closing paragraph of the article:

Margo stresses that anyone intent on wearing MBTs "should definitely be doing a Pilates class or working on their core stability. Ideally you should get them only on the recommendation of a physiotherapist and should be trained to use them properly. They are not a cure-all for modern life".

So, after looking into the claims of Swiss Masai, it does appear that these shoes do show some promise for treating certain conditions. However, these were only preliminary - more clinical studies are needed. In the meantime, there is anecdotal evidence that the shoes can cause significant negative side effects. For anyone considering using these shoes, I would suggest that they talk with a physician or a physical therapist first, and then stay in contact with them to make sure that the shoes aren't doing them any harm.

Update I wrote a letter to the pharmacy where I first found MBT shoes, which I've posted online in this blog entry. Also, I received some feedback from a vendor of MBT shoes. Read the comments of that post to see his response.

Added 2009-01-19 I continue to receive comments on this entry on a fairly regular basis, a year and a half after I first posted it. Many have related positive experiences with the MBT shoes, and many have related negative experiences. So, I feel that I need to reference the popular saying - the plural of anecdote is not data. I do not mean to discourage people from posting their anecdotes here. In fact, I welcome them, because after all, that's what blogs are for. I just want to make it clear that without a proper clinical study, there's no way to quantify the risks associated with these shoes. So, to reiterate what I wrote before, if you plan on using these shoes, be aware that they do carry a risk for negative side effects, and be sure to consult closely with a doctor or physical therapist if you do use the shoes.


Thanks for the great insights and data, Jeff!

This is excellent information! All good no nonsense facts!

For more information like this as well as expert fitting recommendations on the different MBT models... check out www.FeetFirstFitness.com

How can I purchase shoes


My advice is to first go see a doctor or physical therapist, and make sure that they recommend these shoes for you. If you get that recommendation, I'd further suggest that you look for a local vendor, so that you can get a proper fitting (according to feedback I received on another blog entry, it appears that "all the MBTs run differently in width and fit and the US size converson was done incorrectly on all the women's shoes.")

If you can't find a local vendor, the feedback I've received has come from a representative of this company: Feet First Fitness, which does sell the shoes online.

I can't find any comment on walking or stepping backward.
I stepped back off the bottom rung of a ladder, rocked on the curved sole and sat down hard, breaking my hip.
Any others?

As a certified personal trainer, I have some specific concerns about the foundational logic of these claims. Humans do not typically need to activate our muscles under the condition of unstable surfaces. For example, an athlete in a game braces his/her feet against the ground to stay upright when being hit by another body or when destabilizing the body for an activity such as throwing, kicking, or swinging. Traditional weight training (bracing against the ground while handling resistance) or agility-type training (re-stabilizing during or after movement) are more "functional" than these shoes. I have used a wobble board to train ATROPHIED superficial muscles after surgery; I don't quite see why it would be a good thing to make my hamstrings work all day long to maintain stability as I walk around. It seems akin to trying to "sit up straight" all day rather than sitting in a chair with appropriate back support for relaxation. Doesn't this set a person up for unhealthy compensation for muscle fatigue?

I wore these shoes to walk in for 2 days- They have agrivated my anterior medial knee so bad that I have been unable to straighten my knee without pain for a week now. I am not a supporter of MBT shoes.

Just met a woman who swears by her sandles and says she won't wear any other kind of shoe shince she broke an ankle.

I'm interested in learning more as someone in the family is having foot problems. Thanks for your research!

I have had a pair of MBT shoes for about a year----and at first they really hurt my feet and I was very sore muscularly after wearing them all day. Now, I am having some sort of lower back problem in which I have cold tingles going down the back of my leg to my foot-possibly the L4-L5 lumbar??? MBT's fault??? Possibly---but extremely hard to find any critical info on MBT......

I have been wearing the MBT shoes for over a year. I did notice it caused me to use different muscles, which is always great. After about 13mos wearing them, I developed extreme knee injury to both knees! I am now preparing for knee surgery.

A shoe that corrects certain muscle, joint and/or posture problems would be great. So, on the tenative advise of my knowledgable friend, I bought a pair of MBTs. I only went to this site after wearing them for 2 days.
I now am more informed and can relate more analytically. So, here's my take. The only advantage that I see is in standing, they do help my posture. When I walk they put pressure on the wrong part of the foot and are very unstable. My lower back area is aching from the use of these poorly designed shoes. And running is ridiculus in these shoes. Thick-soled,air based sports shoes are very comfortable and put the MBT to shame.
In conclsion, I challenge the shoe manufactures to take the one great thing about the MBT shoes, that is, better posture when standing, and dynamically redistribute the shape of the shoe for walking and running. Also, I want royality rights for the idea: 0.1% is just fine.

To answer the concern about MBT's link to walking barefoot and the need to stabilise, the shoe is designed to create slight instability between the foot and the ground. When you stand in sand the ground will be moving slightly underneath you causing stabilising muscles to continually make slight adjustments in order to maintain balance.On initial strike when walking in sand this will be occurring even more as the sand doesnt have time to compact and harden. Obviously this does not happen on the hard flat surfaces we often walk on. MBT's are serving to recreate that slight instability underfoot that we do not often get these days.

In answer to the query on side effects of MBT i would like to say that the footwear does alter the gait pattern slightly in that it promotes a slightly shorter stride length with a resultant upright posture. I would argue that Biomechanically this is the most efficient way to walk, reducing shock and rotational torque forces to joints, and allowing the body to rotate naturally therefore making it the most efficient natural shock absorber. I think that this coupled with the slight instability and resultant increase in muscle activity meaning that postural stabilising muscles are more active is the most efficient way for humans to walk. The big thing for me is that by reducing stride length you can reduce heel strike force on initial contact (reducing the lever for over pronators) and you spend a lower amount of time with full body weight on 1 leg. So for me if there are any abnormalities in the gait pattern MBT could help to reduce the negative impacts of this. From my study in Exercise Science and gait analysis I see MBT as an excellent tool for promoting efficient gait. I think there will always be those not suited to MBT but i think on the whole many can benefit. I havent seen too much evidence so far on the side effects of MBT

What an informative blog. Have been searching all morning for pros and cons on MBT's. Just cannot decide whether or not they are worth the money. I am on my feet a lot. Most days standing over 5 hours a day and on weekends can be on my feet for 10-12 hours a day. Wish I knew if the MBT's would help with the burning neck and back pain from standing for so long. My job requires me to work outside so the ground is not always smooth, flat and dry either.


In response to your first comment, I still don't see what this instability has to do with simulating going barefoot? How is standing on sand barefoot versus in shoes any more or less stable? How about on pavement? Our ankles already act like a pin joint. Our legs are naturally unstable about our ankles, anyway. These shoes may make you even more unstable, but I fail to see how that can be referred to as "barefoot" technology. Nevertheless, as I said in the main post, I'm not going to dwell on the semantics of their name, since it's obvious the shoes are doing something.

Regarding your second comment, you make some valid points, but how do you quantify the negative consequences? How many people will experience negative side effects? Just how bad will those side effects be? Is it just minor irritation that will go away when the person quits using the shoe, or could a person actually become crippled? These are the types of questions I would like to see addressed. I think they are very relevant as to whether or not people should be using these shoes, especially as studies such as the one by Nigg et. al. from Medicine & Science in Sports & Excercise Study indicated that these shoes didn't really help any more than a properly fitted New Balance walking shoe.

I'm not saying these shoes won't be beneficial to some people. I'm just questioning how many, and wondering how safe they are. At the time I wrote the article, I didn't see any studies to reassure me. If there are newer studies tracking the long term side effects of these shoes, I'd certainly be interested in seeing them.


I'm no doctor, so you certainly shouldn't put much stock in my opinion. However, my gut feel is that if you're going to be spending a lot of time on uneven ground, these shoes probably aren't the way to go. However, you'd probably be best to go to a doctor or physical therapist and get their advice. (Personally, I'd avoid chiropractors. Even though they may have some techniques that work, the field is based on some pretty wacky ideas, and has some techniques that certainly don't work. Granted, not all chiropractors believe all of the mystical mumbo jumbo, but my personal opinion is that if somebody wants to go into that type of work, why would they even enter the field associated with woo, when they could just become a physical therapist and use evidence based treatments.)

I have psoriatic arthritis in my feet and hips. The MBT shoes have helped me very much by making sure my weight is distributed across my feet, rather than thrown forward on the ball of the foot the way ordinary shoes do. The straightened posture also helps relieve hip pain. I think the shoes are great for walkign and every day use, but I doubt they are the best for ahtletics.

The reference to barefoot comes from the fact that basically the aim of MBT is to simulate a softer, uneven terrain and therefore challenge the foots proprioceptive abilities. A Flat soled stable shoe does not challenge the foot and proprioceptive abilities can be lost. So the use of 'Barefoot' in the name is referring to the increased challenge to the foots intrinsic musculature. I think where MBT is coming from is that most of our time is spent on hard, flat surfaces in flat shoes, we never need to stabilise as we used to when walking and standing on uneven terrain. Obviously in this day and age we all need to wear shoes but the aim is to recreate the instability our ancestors encountered.

In terms of the walking pattern in MBT i see no negative to walking with a reduced stride length, reduced shock to joints and a more even gait. It is the way the human body is designed to walk. For those with existing conditions these can be increased by lengthening the stride, increasing shock, rotational torque and overloading to other areas as compensation. Im sure there will always be some that do not get along with MBT, I really do think they would be a minority. In saying this it would be great to see more research and I am aware that they are always doing more. I know they have currently done around 26 studies on the various effects.

I would like to hear from someone that has wore these shoes if they received any weight loss benefits from wearing them. I have to stand on my feet alot at work and other times I have to walk alot(i'm a surgical nurse)did anyone see a significant change in their glutes muscle tone?


so i bought MBT's and have been wearing them daily for around 2 months.

i am only 28 have a pretty healthy life style, but was suffering massively from hip joint pain, lower back pain, on and off neck pain and constantly hurting legs.

i go to the chiro weekly, do pilates twice a week, stretch daily, ride a bike, walk alot etc... all in order to try to lessen my pain and improve my wellbeing.

my problems were effecting my daily life extensively and made me worry about my future and ageing.

i have also worn orthodics for the past 8 years and usually wore a nike shoe.

about 3 months ago, my heel got very swolen and my feet were cramping up during walking or pilates, so i saw a podiatrist, she went through a few options for me, but felt due to my feet rolling in so much, that was a huge part of all of my problems.
she suggested MBT's. i felt like i had no options left so thought why not?

$360 - (AUD) later and a couple of months in... i am SO happy and relieved that i tried them.
first week the muscle behind my knee was sore but its because i wasnt walking correctly in them. (big steps)
i went to a MBT walking class and the main thing i had to change is taking much smaller steps, which im now in the habit off.

so... near to ALL of my pain has GONE. my lower back is still slightly unsettled, but it does not affect me to the degree it did daily like before and my partner and colleagues have noticed me complaining alot less.
all of my hip joint pain is gone and i no longer have to wear orthodics AT ALL.

I find that incredible, i wore those things in my shoes all the time and still experienced sore arches, shin splints and jarred ankle joints.

A few weeks back i was going to a dance party and wore my older nikes for fashion reasons and i wasnt so confident i could dance to techno in my MBTs (also didnt wanna get them filthy) this was the first time i wore my nikes since i got the MBTS - biggest MISTAKE ever. I walked less than 1 km to the party, and felt my lower back jamming up, each step was like a impact of tension. throughout the night my legs began killing me and my feet cramped up.

I dont know about the long term possible negative affects. but for someone as young as myself, i am so thrilled with the effect MBT's have had on my life.. and this is only 2 months in!

Everyone keeps telling me too that i look great and have lost weight... (im around 70kg's so pretty average) i havent noticed the loss, but if so i bet its the MBTs!

the only small thing i noticed is when im really trying to hold my shoulders back to fully instigate my core and work my stomach, it can make my shoulders achy the next day. but i think this is just the body adjusting and once i strengthen my posture even more that will decrease.

If your going to get them.
MAKE sure they FIT!
Ensure to take the walking class - TINY steps are an absolute must.

Hi, I have been seeing a physical therapist due to an unfortunate sciatica problem. I have asked her about MBT. She says i could use them if i believe that they work. She does not think that there is a real proof of evidence that they work nor she takes them seriously. I find them ugly and eyewateringly expensive. So i have to let them go anyway.

Here's something to think about before you buy MBTs. Your WEIGHT. Yes. You're too little - they do too little.
I bought some. I'd been eyeing them off for a while but at $360 AU... nup. $180 on special, I'd give em a go. I now realise that if you are light, they don't do all they are meant to. The soft 'unstable' bit has the same PSI resistance in all sizes. I weigh possibly half that of a man and they don't squish under my weight. That means they don't give way and throw me off, forcing me to compensate as is supposed to happen.
There was a crowd in the shop that day and I spent a long time in there. I noticed that other bigger people trying them for the first time, were more wobbly and really going on about how about how "different" they felt. Not me. They didn't feel unstable at all. I thought maybe I just have better balance. The only difference was the centre of gravity, but I wear lots of spongy platforms with the backs worn down (bad girl) so it was no biggy. My old high rise thongs do pretty much the same. Maybe even more if the whole concept is lack of support, because the MBTs certainly don't collapse under me in any greater way than those. To test, I carried a 15kg weight in the MBTs and ah ha!, I started to get it.
So, in all, I think the real key is to keep your body thinking. Scholls sandal's claimed that the exercise was in the toe clenching required to keep them on. Then there are the heel-lower-than-ball shoes that give your calves a right bollocking. I have a pair of knobbly massage thongs that are a dream when I'm tired or my feet are achey. Not to mention the hundreds of sports and walking shoes that say their benefit is in the very support that MBTs eschew (or antishoe should I say).
Over and out. Hope this was useful to somebody.

I've been wearing MBT's for about two years and just love them - I have 4 pairs!
I have MS and resultant "foot-drop" which led to many falls over the prior few years. During the previous 2 summers I wore knee braces all the time because I'd fallen so often & injured my knees so severely.
When a close friend, who also has MS, recommend that I try MBT's I figured I didn't have anything to lose. The owners of Total Body Solutions in Framingham, MAss, where I bought the shoes gave me a a lesson on how to balance myself before I started walking in them - they wouldn't let me leave the store until I knew how to walk in them properly!

I accommodated to the new gait so quickly that I didn't need to slowly increase my wearing time over the course of the first week... I wore them full-time within 3 days.

1 - I no longer stumble and trip over uneven pavement he way I used to - I can walk longer and farther, without foot, knee, hip or back pain (which were constant problems in the past, really inhibiting my ability to get out and walk - I also have a Morton's Neuroma on the soles of both feet which was often excruciating if I walked more than 1/2 mile!)!

Since walking is my main form of exercise and I used to walk at least 3 miles a day, having to give that up was depressing.

2 - People started commenting on my improved posture within days.

3 - People are (still) constantly asking me if I've lost weight -(maybe 4-5 pounds over the past two years) but I am fitting into smaller clothes - especially pants and shorts.

4 - My tush and thighs are visibly smaller and less "jiggly".
When I'm able to walk at least 3 times/week there's no jiggle at all!

5 - My tummy is tighter (maybe from the extra effort to balance).

6 - My overall balance is better - wonderful news for anyone with MS, or anyone, for that matter

When I got my first pair of MBTs, I asked my Podiatrist his opinion, and he was quite skeptical ... however he said to
try them out and keep him posted on how I was doing with them - I could be a "guinea pig" to see how well they worked.
At my next appointment, he was amazed at the difference in my posture and balance and has started recommending them to specific patients.

The only bad news - They did NOT prevent a slip on black ice which resulted in knee surgery after 18 months of physical therapy! ;-)

So call me one big MBT fan for giving me back my mobility and lessening my foot, knee, hip, and back pain.


One point (a friendly piece of advice) I forgot to make earlier:

Do NOT get MBTs on-line ... buy in a good shoe store with knowledgeable personnel:

1 - it took at least 4 pairs for me to find the best fit for me. The same went for my very petite friend (size 0 - 2, 5'2") who introduced me to MBTs. (My friend only weighs about 95 lbs., and she loves MBTs, so I am surprised by the comment about weight.

2 - We both found that different styles of MBTs required different shoe sizes.

3 - In addition, you really do want the lessons on how to change your stance and gait before you start wearing them .. it makes it a lot easier to get used to them.

As did an early blogger, after wearing MBTs for several months, I had to wear more "elegant" shoes to a wedding - low heeled sandals which were definitely the correct fit. I could barely the few blocks from the car to the hotel, and immediately took them off when we reached to reception room. Wearing the "elegant" shoes from the reception room to the front entrance of the hotel was excruciating. My feet, calves and back remained sore for several days after-wards.

MBTs may not be fancy but I won't wear anything else.

All the best,

I have been wearing MBT's for 2.5 years and have a bad hip flexor injury.

I have have proof that they caused it but I have been doing everything else about the same.


I never had any problem with my knees but after I used MBT shoes for a month I started feeling feeling pain for the first time. Now pain is still with me even when I quit wearing them.

I earlier posted about being too light for MBTs. Just thought I'd report back after 4 mths of wear. I do love wearing them, but wish they were really 'unstable' to match my weight even more, now that I'm used to them. I notice that the fact they don't flatten out as much under me means the rocker sole remains more curved, so on that count it's a bonus. I think I'm right about this, because the new model MBTs have a much more curved sole than mine, probably to conpensate for the flattening of the squishy middle bit. Now, if they'd just make the smaller sizes with softer middle bits, we'd all get to have the same experience with the shoes. For something that claims it's all about technology and charges so much for it, I think this oversight of of basic physics is pretty poor. I bought a weight belt which I use when I can and can feel they are more effective. I don't regret buying them, in fact they are my favourite shoes but I won't get another pair while I have to bulk up like a deep sea diver to make them really work.

I think it would be a bad idea to wear MBTs all the time. But they have made a huge difference to me in the short term.

I have had a hammer toe straightened (which sounds like nothing if you have never experienced having a toe joint removed!) and was given a surgical shoe to wear for six weeks, making me a good inch higher on one side than the other. As a result I had a limp and pain in my hip.

Now I am wearing MBTs instead, and they are wonderful. But I shan't want to wear them again once my six weeks of recovery are up.

Query: why do hospitals only provide one shoe to patients with foot injuries? I would have gladly paid for a matching shoe.

i have been wearing mbts for 3 years now. I initially bought them for my mum as she has hip problems. She is 50 and I am 34. As soon as she put them on she was able to walk a lot more, normally when we go shopping she has to sit down after 20 mins, but in these shoes she was up for 3 hrs and felt great! I asked if they could be used for running. I run 45 mins to 1 hr, covering between 8 to 10 Km..She said yes. Now when I ran before I had terrible knee and back pain. With these I have no problem at all! Whoever said its difficult to go back to walking normal is stupid. I wear stilletoes most days and have no trouble changing from both. My posture is so much better and I can run longer with no problems. I did go back to a cushioned running trainer, and my back problems started again. So I have to say, each to their own, I for one am a great fan!

This has been quite a good site for discussing the pro's and cons of the MBT's.

So for what it's worth here's my tuppence worth! As a corrective exercise specialist I have always been skeptical of the claims of MBT and most research that backs up their claims has probably been subsidised by MBT in the first place? The foot is an amazing piece of work and shutting it off in any shoe causes inherent problems, the reason that some people on here have had negative effects from going back to old style running shoes may be because for each inch of heel you have in a shoe in creates 11 degrees of postural tilt that the body has to compensate for. that's why women in high heeled shoes look so unstable. most shoes like nike, NB etc have an inch and a half of heel or at least 15 degrees for the body to adjust to.

Yep it would also appear that MBT's can decrease some impact that could cause some pain experienced by people with faulty mechanics but if you look at why people have dysfunction it is not placed solely (no pun intended!) at what footwear they are wearing.

Foot dysfunction is, in my experience not a primary cause of pain, whereas breathing pattern disorders, jaw alignment, eyesight, neck, organ referral, emotional stress, sacro-illiac joint pain and many more are the causes of modern pain syndromes. Footwear is a potential cause but a very small part of the equation.

My biggest criticism of MBT's and this is just an observation, is that the instability is created in a sagittal plane (forwards/backwards) a plane where most people have considerable problems anyway from seated at a desk, completing too many exercises like press ups and sit ups, running etc. not completing functional movement patterns that twist, side bend, pull and the like. Wearing shoes that continue to exacerbate this problem would compound any painful conditions.

I recommend and sell my clients a shoe called vibram 5 fingers because it is the closest thing to bare foot. I run in mine and I get clients to train in them also. I don't sell anything to my clients that is gimmicky or that would be the source of dysfunction. Besides Masai mechanics are a very different from white european mechanics. Most clients of mine from african and eastern descendants have increased pronation and flattening of the foot that is hereditary. it's a bit like nutrition one man's food is another man's poison.

My advice to anyone is sure if these MBT's help you out in the short term by all means use them as pain can be a burden but clarify the source of your pain, is it structural, hormonal or emotional.

Think to yourself can I run in these shoes, as we are all designed to run. Most force attenuation shoes designed by manufacturers are marketed to create doubt in your mind that impact is bad but we need impact to be stored in the deep longitudinal sling to provide energy for the next stride. Impact is good. Most Masai warriors spent hours on endurance hunts on baked sand that is as hard has concrete.

Have you noticed that Nike hasn't lost this concept by producing the nike free which heel size is being reduced each new model?

So there's my input, I could go on, but I may have bored you long enough.



Hi Jeff,
Interesting stuff, and thanks for taking the time to review. Home many of the different shoes did you try yourself?

Here are the points I find interesting in your report and responses.

1, You seem a little concerned regards the reports being sponsored by the manufacturer, and I agree it would be much much better to see independent reports - but seems difficult to find anybody to conduct reports unless somebody pays.

Perhaps a Consumer reports study would be a good place.

Similarly, most of the prescription drugs that are brought to market are usually sponsored by the for-profit (I only mention the for-profit because many seem to feel that the pharmaceutical industry is "for health" which it is not) pharmaceutical company. And as we know, many many cases of only the good results being used to approve drugs which later turn out to be deadly. So evaluation is a problem.

2, I noticed in one of your responses you recommended that a Doctor be asked for advice before purchase.

I feel that this may be a little misguided advice. The Doctor is often positioned as the know all, when in effect, the majority of doctors don't even know about nutrition and how the body functions. Try this next time you visit your family doctor, ask him/her how much nutritional training they have taken? So to expect them to provide any valid advice on a non drug product is ludicrous.

Going to somebody that looks at the person holistically would likely provide better advise, or try them yourself, form your own opinion.

I think what would be very helpful would be a database of experience with these shoes - over a long term.

I'd be very interested to hear what your experience has been with the different types of shoes, and also it would be good to know how to decide what is a bad shoe (ie is a shoe from Walmart automatically a bad shoe?) and only expensive shoes good?

Don't get me wrong, I would not buy a Walmart show as I don't believe in their business practices, I only mention this to illustrate a point.

Thanks again for your report. I guess we all have to take responsibility for being our own best second opinion in anything we see or hear.

Interesting, just tried to post and seems my comments have been listed as junk!

I don't appear to have a single link? Curious.

Hello people interested in this MBT blog. This is my third post. Last report was at 4 mths wear. It's now been 7 mths and I'm a complete convert. Having said I wouldn't buy a second pair, I'm now up to my seventh. What a tragic. I've averaged about a quarter price for them (on special, online and even secondhand - get em wherever I can find em)
I guess, whatever theories people have about why they they should or shouldn't work, the proof is in the wearing. Some have had injuries but many many more have had good results as testified to by the fact they can keep selling thousands of these expensive things to return customers - like me for instance.
The renovations to my body shape have been worth it. The improvement in my posture add to it. The total lack of previous back aches absolutely seals the deal for me.
All the talk focuses on walking, but frankly, I think much of the benefit comes from standing still and being full of micro-twitches from the waist down the whole time. (To those who haven't tried them, don't worry, you don't notice the twitches unless you think about it) This must be hugely effective when you consider how much standing you do in a given day, when normally you would be using few muscles at all. This may be why some of us have such noticeable results from seemingly a simple walking shoe with just a slightly different sole. Wear them for everyday things like doing dishes and prepping food. Free exercise! No extra time. No gym. Wear them shopping and at least standing in a queue becomes something more than a total waste of life.

I have worn nothing but my MBT's since I got them three years ago. I wasn't able to stand or wear any pair of shoes, even those with my orthotics for more than 30 minutes. My MBT's have given me my life back. I can walk and lead a normal life. They have relieved the pain from my feet knees and hips. I praise God for these wonderful shoes!


I apologize for taking so long to respond to your comments, but I've been very busy over the past month. However, I felt like I must respond to your comments, because, quite frankly, some of your attitudes seem a bit dangerous. I guess the easiest way is to address your comments point by point.

But first, let me say that Swiss Masai now has a list of studies on their website. I haven't yet had a chance to review these studies, but I hope to in the near future. Okay, on to your points...

Home many of the different shoes did you try yourself?

I haven't used the shoes at all. Like I wrote originally, I first saw them in a drugstore and considered them a curiosity, so I decided to investigate them a bit further. I don't currently have any back pain or foot pain that I would need any treatment for (I did have a bit of foot pain once, but I'll address that a little later).

You seem a little concerned regards the reports being sponsored by the manufacturer, and I agree it would be much much better to see independent reports...

Just to be sure that my memory wasn't faulty, I went back and skimmed through both this entry and my follow up entry, Letter to Pharmacy about MBT Shoes. As I thought, conflict of interest was the least of my concerns with the studies. My major concerns were that studies were too limited, and didn't do enough to address possible negative side effects.

I noticed in one of your responses you recommended that a Doctor be asked for advice before purchase. I feel that this may be a little misguided advice.

I cannot stress enough how much I disagree with this comment. This is one your attitudes that I considered dangerous. A good family doctor should be your starting point for any medical treatment (other than emergencies, obviously). Family practice doctors may not be specialists in nutrition, but they do know quite a bit about how the body works - why do you think they take all those anatomy and physiology classes? And as far as having a regular family doctor, it is invaluable to have a consistent point of contact, who knows your history and who knows you personally, and can judge your condition far more accurately than a stranger, before referring you on to specialists.

In the past few years since I've met my wife, I've come to know many people in the medical field, considering MDs, NPs, RNs, and various others in the field as friends. I've learned a lot more how the field works in this time. There's an old joke, that a patient goes to the doctor and says, "Hey Doc, it hurts when I bend my arm like this." The doctor responds, "Well then don't bend your arm like that." This common sense approach to medicine is a common theme I hear from my medical friends, where drugs and pills are not the first course of action, and more invasive treatments are even further down the list.

For example, when I had some foot pain a few years ago, I mentioned it to one of my friends who happens to be an NP. What was her advice? To lose the extra pounds I'd recently put on. No drugs, no special therapy - just a slight lifestyle change. Similarly, when I complained to her about elbow pain, she told me to use ice packs and heat compresses - old fashioned, traditional therapies.

Granted, there are times when the use of drugs is merited, but that should hardly be a surprise. And it's nothing new. Our species has been using drugs since before we realized that chewing on willow bark would ease our pain. Modern pills are mostly just a way to isolate the useful chemicals and administer them in controlled doses, but many of those useful chemicals originally came from natural sources (and whether you ingest a drug in a pill or a plant leaf, the chemical still behaves the same in your body).

All that being said, not all doctors are created equal. I'm glad that I now know enough about the medical field in my town to know which doctors to go to, and which to steer clear of. I even knew of a provider who would prescribe antibiotics for viral infections! I don't know you so I don't know your history, but if your experiences with doctors have been to jump to drugs as the first line of treatment for every ailment, then I'd say that you need to find a new doctor.

I think what would be very helpful would be a database of experience with these shoes - over a long term.

Well, here I agree with you. This was kind of the whole point of my post - more data is needed on these shoes. Considering the comment you made on my other post (which I'll address in a bit), how would you propose gathering this data in any meaningful manner if not through clinical studies?

I'd be very interested to hear what your experience has been with the different types of shoes, and also it would be good to know how to decide what is a bad shoe (ie is a shoe from Walmart automatically a bad shoe?) and only expensive shoes good?

If only expensive shoes were good, then MBTs would be among the best. Personally, I've found over the years that Asics, Avia, Adidas, and Reebok are all very comfortable for me, while Nikes are a bit uncomfortable on my feet. I've never actually worn New Balance or many of the other brands of sneakers. Since I don't like shopping and don't feel like hunting out a new brand that works well for me, my sneaker shopping has basically become a search for the cheapest pair of Adidas I can find, hopefully on sale (I don't like to spend over $40, and refuse to spend more than $50). Other than comfort, the main reason I stick to Adidas is that I've found they're built well and last a while (I get more use out of a $50 pair of Adidas than I would out of 2 pairs of $25 Walmart sneakers).

Reading back over this entry, my comment about "$5 Wal-Mart brand shoes" was meant more as an indication that the control group in those studies wasn't very controlled. We don't know what the variability was in the control shoes.

You left another comment in my follow up entry, Letter to Pharmacy about MBT Shoes. I'll address that here, as well.

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

This is another of your comments that I must strongly disagree with because I consider it a dangerous attitude. As Richard Feynman once said, "The first rule of science is not to fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool." One of the primary purposes of clinical trials is to avoid self deception. This is a topic that deserves more than I can write in a short response, so I'll recommend a very good article from the winter 2005 issue of Skeptic Magazine, The double-blind gaze: how the double-blind experimental protocol changed science. In short, there are countless ways that we can convince ourselves that a treatment works, even when it's no better than a placebo, and the double blind clinical trial is the best method we've found to get around our own self deception.

Another important factor of large clinical trials is that they can find the negative side effects. Every drug or treatment will have positive and negative effects, and the strength of these effects will vary from person to person. What may be a miracle drug that saves the life of one person, could cause a fatal allergic reaction in another. Obviously, treatments aren't ruled out for the entire population if they have negative side effects in some (millions have been saved by penicillin even though people like me can't take it) - but doctors and patients must be aware of the side effects so they can keep a look out for them. This is one of the major points I have tried to make with this blog entry. MBT shoes may work great for some people. The benefits may be real, and not just placebo, confirmation bias, or any other self delusion. But there may still be a substantial number of people who experience negative side effects. Just exercise some caution if you're going to use these shoes, and consult with a medical professional before and while using them.

I bought a pair of MBT sandals from Zappo's in June. On July 1st I was startled while in my recliner and attempted to run towards the stairs in the hallway. I must emphasize "attempted" because the shoes threw me off balance and propelled me down the hallway where I stopped by my heading hitting the metal front door. I broke both my arms and hurt my neck, back and knee and leg. I have no history of falling or any condition that compromises my balance. Until the accident occured, I loved the shoes and felt that they were helping my plantar facitis. Now, I would really like to caution people about the possibility of serious injury when wearing these shoes. We never know when we might have to hurry across busy street or be startled by something and lose the concentration necessary to keep balanced in these shoes. I just want people to be extra cautious when wearing the MBT's.

Marketing hype is a wonderful thing. In truth the shoe has little to do with bare-footedness, perhaps it should just be called the "rocking shoe" or the "unstable shoe". But "Masai barefoot" sounds so much better! ... but that is just marketing, and I can't comment on whether the foot instability is good for us or not. ...

However, I do know a lot about bare-footedness, having spent 12 years in an earlier part of my life roaming barefooted in rough country, through heavy timber (sticks and stones!) and rocky creeks and hard gravel roads, and dusty cowpads. What is different is how carefully and automatically we placed our feet in that situation, our peripheral vision selects the spot, and our eye is already choosing the next spot before the foot is placed! Walking quickly across stony creek beds was effortless, but now I find (after years of being shod and walking flat pavements) that a return to my old haunts is a dicey and precarious balancing act.

With that bare-footedness came great balance (and very tough soles! ... I could run barefoot for 5 miles on tarmac with no problems).

But I have no doubt the benefits were a function of the terrain, and allowing the foot to grip the ground. I guess this can be replicated to some extent by a very thin sole, but the toes don't get to do their thing quite so freely.

Avon has the same type of shoe for $40.00. I got some 3 weeks ago and wear them to work. (9 hours a day) and love them. And will continue to wear them at this point.

Hi Jeff, great information! I was considering these shoes for orthopaedic benefit and I'm glad I got both sides... I think it's interesting, I've been wearing converse (no support) for years and everyone always says so bad that is. Based on the barefoot theory you'd think they'd be promoting that benefit. Personally I do think having some support is necessary to assist with your posture. Mine sucks.
Thanks for the blog!

Hi Jeff,

I'm glad you started this discussion. I think it is important that people know the pros and cons of MBTs. I'm a fitness trainer and have 47 clients wearing the shoes. Everyone has been happy with them so far. I've been wearing them for almost a year with nothing but positive results.

Almost all of the negative reviews I've read online are from people who don't actually own the shoes (and may have never worn them).

One person talked about getting blisters when wearing the shoes. I have tried many MBTs on, and found they fit true to size. I believe in supporting local businesses, but I have found most local show stores carry limited sizes and syles. They typically don't carry half sizes. I was put into a shoe that was a half size too large. As I walked, my heel practically came out of the shoe, but I was told that is how they are supposed to fit (which just is not true). I would suggest getting your foot measured locally, and then only buying a shoe that fits like your other shoes. If they don't have a shoe in stock that fits, then order it. If you can't order it, then go online.

The rocker bottom shoe is gaining popularity. Other mainstream shoe manufacturers are coming out with their own version of the rocker bottom shoe. Some less expensive, and others more expensive than MBTs. Nothing works for everyone. I believe there are more people benefiting from this type of shoe than there are having problems with them.

I love your extensive post about mbt. I have worn them since 2004, and love them. But I like your unbiased look at the pros and cons of these shoes. I wonder why no studies have been done in the United States? One would think that a college would do a study of them. Anyway, just my thoughts.

I purchased a pair of mary janes and used them for about 2 months and actually loved them. I found my vulnerable knees didn't hurt after long walks in them..so I felt I was set. I didn't have any balance problem at all with them.

(I haven't really seen anything written up about this, but I haven't spent hours on end reading about them. I have done my fair share of research through.)

The problem I DID have with them is this. I walk on the outside of my foot generally and have a high arch. Because of that, I didn't realize, but learned the hard way, when I stepped off a 12" step onto a welcome mat outside someone's home, carrying a few pieces of luggage, the foot I stepped out with, inverted inward and I BROKE MY ANKLE!!!! It was the oddest thing.

I am not going to use the shoes again. I know if I had worn a flat, not rounded bottom shoes, this would not have happened.

Just my two cents which cost me alot more than that from this experience.

Your site is of great importance. here is my story:
I have been slightly kyphotic and scoliotic for as long as I can remember, so the chance of improving my posture with MBT's was approached by me with great enthusiasm. I purchased a pair last August - the shoes felt comfortable and I followed the instructions stringently. After about 3-4 weeks of wearing them I thought my posture had improved, but at the same time I began to feel strange pains in my thoracic spine - a pain which I never experienced before. I did not attribute this to MBT's as a physiotherapist I went to see reccommended them to me. After about 2 months tthe pain in the spine - which I will describe below - intensified to such an extent that I decided to take a break from wearing MBT's. For the last 4-6 weeks I have suffered from sudden (caused by a wrong turn/movement, especially when sliding down in bed from sitting to lying position), most excruciating pain, which lasts about 10 seconds and feels as if a tree trunk is breaking in the storm - there is a huge crack and my muscles go into spasm, I cannot breath and the pain persists until I find, ever so carefully, a different position. I have had the ambulance here twice, as the shock of this pain is so huge that I cannot recover for a few hours. I have had x-rays and a DEXA scan and all show just a normal thinning of the bones (I am 59). I am yet to see a consultant to give me the full verdict. I have claimed all along, and tried to explain this to the consultant I saw in the Royal Free, that this pain is due to MBT's, but he took my opinion with a pinch of salt, not being able, nevertheless, to attribute the pain to anything else!
My son's mother in law came today to see me and asked me what is the matter with my spine. when I told her, somewhat hesitantly, not expecting to be believed, that I think my problem started with wearing MBT's she said that her daughter, who is 17 years old and has a slight scoliosis and kyphosis, like myself, was told by Great Ormond Street consultant(s) never to wear MBT shoes as they will cause her damage!!!!!!! SO THERE YOU HAVE IT FROM THE MOUTH OF EXPERTS: MBT'S CAN CAUSE DAMAGE!
You cannot imagine my relief when I heard this, as at long last there was some credence to my perception of what was happening to my body as a result of wearing MBT's.
I would love to know if this damage is reversible, because if it is not I am in for a life of pain which, I fear, will impact on my heart etc. It is a pain that on a scale of 0-100 is 120!
AND LASTLY, i FEEL THERE IS NOW ENOUGH GROUNDS TO SUE MBT MAKERS WHO SELL THESE SHOES WITHOUT A HEALTH WARNING. IF OTHERS WOULD LIKE TO JOIN ME - WE SHOULD GO FOR IT. I have been incapacitated now for 6 weeks, my life had turned upside down and I am fearful of making any movement. By the end of the day I cannot sit/stand/lie down/walk.

I bought some of these shoes due to the agony i had been experiencing while on Holidays and my habit of walking for days on end in Art Galleries and Museums. And they are brilliant my feet no longer feel like they are burning and I can walk and stand in them for hours on end. I must stress though i am usually walking on reasonably flat surfaces here. Im not sure how these shoes would measure up on very uneven surfaces, and I always take extra care when using stairs in them. But for day after day on your feet and standing they are bliss.

i have not tried these shoes yet, but i have something to tell ya all. i have had numerous accidents, eventually leading to deterioration of C-5, then C-3 too. also, i broke my ankle, which really counts here. i had learned that the best way to walk to relieve pain in your back and neck was to walk barefoot in the sand. because sand is so soft, it makes it so that your vertebra move and then new, oxygenated blood flows through and around, reducing back pain. i learned that it was true, and now i can't do it because of the ankle break (that happened 4 years ago, but still i can't walk barefoot in sand, dammit)!

next, walk barefoot on the earth. next, walk barefoot on hard surfaces. the worst thing you can do, especially if you suffer from hip arthritis, is to walk in any fashion, shoeless or not, on a cold concrete floor. even those covered with linoleum, like in stores, are bad for you.

another shoe that works for ME, are negative heel technology "earth shoes," which are patented by Ann Kalso. don't confuse them with any other shoes that start with the word "earth," like "earth spirit," which give you no benefit.

i will try out these shoes on the city streets and in stores, but i may revert to wearing my earth sandles with socks, even in the winter! (they sell boots too--see my epinion published about them on epinion.com in the winter of last year, either december 2008 or january/february 2009). the cost a lot, but they feel so good!

All I know is that walking on white sand is the greatest stabilizing factor for my feet,legs and back, even thugh it seems a bit awkward while you are doing it. I did it and hope for that same effect from a shoe.If anything can simulate that ,I need it.

If you want to simulate being barefoot, get a pair of Virbram FiveFingers. These MBT shoes are crap. My sister pulled her hamstring in these things. Your foot works best when its forced to support itself without technology. If the Masai saw these things, they would laugh their asses off.

I have been wearing mbt's for six months constantly. At first they helped to eliminate my foot pain. As time went on however my knees became overworked and painful. Going down stairs became a problem of strain and instability. This was probably excascerbated by some interior collapse of the shoe, compromising the so called postural benefits of wearing. I am currently wearing 'orthofit' supports from boots the chemist, and these seem to do the job as well if not better.

I have been researching these for a while. I experience pain in my right hip. I am 22yrs old, healthy weight, eat well, etc. I noticed after years of hiking and cycling, that my right hip began to hurt. I looked into these shoes to see if they might help. They say walking in Sand is good for your feet, however, whenever I walk barefoot on the beach my hip hurts more than ever! I have decided not get these shoes. However, I will look into perhaps the Nike Free brand, they look comfortable and allow your foot to balance naturally, without being "thrown off". Has anyone tried the Nike Free?

I have also attributed my hip pain to Iliotibial Band Syndrome, which could be caused by my medial overpronation (my kneecaps point inward when standing normal)...the best thing you can do to help with ITBS is to wear proper shoes and perform stretches and strength exercises. For those who have hip pain, I think the worse thing you can do is throw your body out of balance! Save the money you would spend on the shoes and go to a therapist.

But thats just me, everyone is different. I just don't think they are worth the risk.

If I do not go with the Nike Free, I will go to New Balance and have my feet measured and fitted with a proper shoe for my foot type.

Thanks for this article, it really helped me think critically about these shoes instead of buying into the hype :)

Hello all my mother has been wearing the shape ups for about 2 months she is 75
years she has progressively
rounding her back for many years and shuffling her walk in pain for the same she now walks without pain stands and walks like a young woman Im getting a pair.:)

I love my shape ups. I am 51, overweight and have suffered from plantar fasciitis for years. These are wonderful shoes, they sooth my feet with every step. They also corrected my forward leaning posture, they take all presure off of my heel and give my legs and fanny a better work out than I have ever gotten at a gym. I was unable to walk my normal daily walks, then I found the shape ups. I am back in business. I am grateful for these shoes.

AFter 4 years, I have purchased, 4 pair and won't go back to any other shoe, except when I play tennis I wear tennis shoes, because the court would eat up my MBT soles. I have disc herniation of c4-5, 5-6 and 6-7 from an auto accident. These shoes are a Godsend! I hope they never quit making them. Not only is my posture better, but my legs are much more toned. I even wear my old pair around the house as slippers, because it's more comfortable than barefoot.Five teachers at my school bought the Skecher version, because they didn't want to spend so much on the MBT's, but while they liked the loof and feel, the quality was poor and they started to fall apart with daily wear after a few months. I gave one of my coworkers an old pair and she is still wearing them...they are 2 years old, at least! In regards to those who say the MBTs caused them to fall or have other health problems, I find that ridiculous, unless you have other balance and /or health problems. My orthopaedic MDs recommended them. I also have high arches and lymph edema in my left foor and the MBT's have been nothin, but wonderful. I'd do a free testimonial for the company, I've been so satisfied. As far as articles about the MBT, if you haven't at least tried on a pair and walked in them for a few months, you really can't give an honest opinion of what they can or can't do for you. I do some part time television work and wear 4 inch heels on a regualr basis and have had no problem swapping out from MBT's to my heels and back. However, I always fly and drive wearing them, especially for the circulation benefit. Once you know your size and have been properly fitted, you can find them on ebay on occasion, too. Walker's Warehouse online also has sales on discontinued styles. I love my MBT's!

mmm, take 1 minute and do an image search for the Masai. They don't go barefoot do they? They use sandals with a thin sole made of old rubber tyres. This is the kind of stuff that feels more like walking barefoot. I believe a lot of traditional cultures with very active lifestyle around the globe use similar kind or shoes (check the Tarahumara sandals). This is actually the kind of technology that applies to the sentence: "practical proof of the effectiveness of this technology has been provided for thousands of years" (obviously traditionally they didn't use rubber tyres but rawhide. rubber now provides more grip)
You could also look at a footage of a masai walking: it looks quite different from one of a guy walking in MBTs...
Masai Barefoot Technology-> 3 words that don't go together...
This whole things sounds very silly to me-> High tech shoes to walk barefoot - it reminds me of the threadmill bike, which allows you to actually move while running.

The simple fact, that when one of MBT's patents expired (the heart of the footwear - the Sensor itself is still protected), namely the shape of sole, all of a sudden numerous companies came out with something similar, proves that MBTs in fact do work. But the customers must learn how to walk (a more accurate word would be USE not just WALK).
14 years of studying the effect of small muscle activation supports MBTs claims concerning the therapeutic use of their footwear. Reebok, Sketchers etc. on the other hand doesn't have anything to support thier claims. And logically instead of putting the emphasis on the therapeutic benefits, all they just say is "fitness shoe". Which - since in the US half of the general population is obese, the other half is obsessed with looks fills some sort of void in the market. But not only thier product are just lame copies of MBT (I'm not saying they don't help you lose weight - simply by keeping your body in motion though - which you can obtain with any sport shoes on the market). And although this very market slowly will get stuffed with fitness shoes, still, MBT remins the only proven physiotherapeutic footwear, not only supported by several studies, but coaches, sportsmen and women of the Swiss, Canadian, Austrian olympic teams.

For crying out people- sue MBT? What kind of morons post some of this stuff? Get a life and take some responsibility. Maybe some of the problems are YOUR fault- you know, fat, out-of-shape etc. But NO- we live in a "victim" society where anything less than what we expect (want) is some other persons fault. Buy something, try it, and if you don't like it throw it away. Go ahead and tell me about it but don't try to make it sound like you are an expert and know what is best for everyone else! The shoes are enjoyed by some and not others. Neither one is going to change the others mind. Should I sue a candy company because I don't like black licorice but I do like the red vines? Waaaaaa, the black stuff made my milk taste bad, and I'm going to remember it for the rest of my pathetic life- Waaaaaaa

I was born with left leg 5/8 in longer than right. Left foot full size larger than right. We were poor so a raised sole we could not afford. Age 66 I was in bad car crash which slit my right knees in every direction-permanent damage walking as my inner tendons pull out my inner knee dropping my arch flat and the pain is unbearable with ankle pronated downward. I used to have a high arch. I began wearing MBT shoes with sensors in unisex size right after getting out a wheelchair. Had my regular Birkenstocks and now MBTs. I went from walking around the house in Birkis -- could not walk around the block w/o great pain which ended not being able to walk back. The MBTs were hard on my legs at first but within a year I was walking 1 mile a day. 5 yrs have passed & I am still walking 1 to 1 1/4 miles per day in the MBTs but cannot walk in any other shoe. My knee stays in perfect place in MBTs. My legs no longer pain from tiredness in my MBTs. The most I have walked is 3 miles in 1 day. I never walked correctly since the day I was born. I compensated for my gait incorrectly and my back is curved now. But I walk with ease, a spring in my walk, no pain, no swelling in my ankles, so I believe the sensors in MBT stimulated the correct muscles for me to walk and now I am used to my new walk and it feels wonderful. If I did not have my MBTs w/sensors, I would be in a wheelchair or having total knee replacement. So no matter what you say, I owe my life's freedom to MBTs.

Also I have met many many men/women wearing MBTs also. I have not personally met anyone who does not love their MBTs for comfort & walking. However I am very careful wearing them in grass or uneven ground. Street or hard packed earth is best.

Thank you for this informative post. It's the most down-to-earth and comprehensive information on MBT shoes I have been able to find online. It has been a very refreshing break from the heavy marketing material and long-winded anecdotes that comprise most of the published information about this product.

I bought the MBT shoes in Switzerland before starting on a grand tour of
Europe which will involve a lot of walking around city streets and country lanes. So off I went, initially feeling good and happy that I was walking much faster therefore covering more grounds to explore. I wore it nearly everyday for 7 months. Now many European streets are cobbled stoned and uneven, which can cause a lot of strain on your feet when wearing the MBT.

Towards the 5th month, my big toes were feeling numb and partly lost sensation. I assume that the constant rocking motion pinched the nerve of my big toes, and somehow lost sensation. I've returned home now, and I'm off to a feet doctor to find out if MBT has actually caused it.

I have three pair of MBT's. Ive been wearing them for 3 years. I liked the results I was getting until this past september when my right ankle shattered. I was an avid walker...twice a day...until this tragic accident. I cant help but think it is due to the shoes. Ive never had a broken bone and have always been in good shape. On October 1st, I had a titanium plate and 11 screws surgically placed in my ankle. I will never power walk again. It is tragic for me because I love to walk and exercise outdoors. I warn everyone who wears these to be careful...this could happen to you too.

MBT shoes were developed on the concept that shoes should feel as if you are walking on a soft surface. One of the claims you might have seen is going for walks 1 mile in MBT Shoes is the equal exercise of walking 2 miles in regular walking shoes.

MBT shoes aren't your day-to-day shoe for, and you will soon understand why.

I use mbt shoes with my orthotics and they are doing me good! Really pleased with them so far.

What I am about to say here is pure "anecdata", I don't know anything about any clinical studies of MBT footwear, or any lack of clinical studies. I think studies are generally of value, and I am involved in studies. (My job, at the hospital where I work, is helping researchers to collect and compile their data. So here are my observations and findings, even though in this case n=1.

When I bought my first MBT sandals 2-3 years ago, I was advised to get accustomed to these gradually, and that some people need to take more time than others for this. But I seemed to get off to a very good start -- I became accustomed to the MBT sandals very quickly.

However, during the ensuing days, weeks, and months, these became far less comfortable to walk in. I started shying away from the prospect of walking even a block or two "because I'm wearing these sandals". So obviously I had to give them up, for a time.

The sandals ended up in storage. I didn't feel that I could get rid of them, they had cost so much (a thousand Norwegian kroner, or maybe it was a thousand and a half = roughly 200 USD).

Then after a year or more of this, a sales representative from a shoe company dealing in MBT footwear visited the hospital where I work. And when he heard about the situation with my MBT sandals, he suggested trying again to get accustomed to them, this time really gradually. And it worked!

I still don't wear MBT footwear for more than half of any given day. And I have also stuck insoles onto them to raise the heel about 1/4 inch and give arch support and stability. (I had an operation years ago for curvature of the spine, so my back is different.) But I'm glad I gave the MBT sandals a second try, it was worth it!

I have also seen that the hospital where I work and other health institutions in the area seem to encourage the use of MBT footwear for their employees. Not only do they allow salespersons for MBT footwear to "get a foot in the door", but it also looks like some hospitals have subsidized their employees' purchase of MBT shoes/sandals. I assume they know something about what they're doing, when they make decisions like these!

Of course, I am aware that the hospitals' seeming endorsement of MBT footwear proves nothing. (Back to what Jeff said in 2007 and commented again i 2009.) But I still think that this support from various hospitals could indicate that there are some health personnel who know something about the benefits.

I overheard my future father-in-law talking to a friend, and perhspas he said it best, "my daughter is marrying a guy" he said, "who lets a shoe run his life!"

I had to laugh. I've only had them for two weeks and I bragged about them at first, but it's really too soon to tell.

I've just bought them today, my work involved long hours of standing and a rough concrete surface. I have had plantar fascitis problem along with pain in foot and calf muscles.

I would update my comment after my experience.

I have been wearing MBTs for about 3 years now. I've had 3 pairs of trainers and 1 pair of sandals.
Initially they were great, helped me to walk with no lower back pain.
However, 18 months ago, I developed pain in both hips, which my GP said was bursitis. It continued, X-rays showed 'moderate decline' in both hips (which is probably to be expected at 55?) 6 months on, I developed knee pain and now cannot kneel down.
My osteopath has commented on how rigid my gluteal muscles are and wonders if the MBTs,(which I wear all day, every day) could be causing this. The outer muscles of both thighs are very rigid too.
I don't know if the MBTs are causing these symptoms or not, that's why I Googled it and came to this blog -I'm none the wiser, I guess the only way I'll find out is to stop wearing MBTs and see if the hip and knee pain stops?
It's a choice between a rock and a hard place, really -frequent lower back pain or daily hip and knee pain!


theres research out there that supports their use

Thanks Jeff for this blog. It is a trifle difficult to find an unbiased review of MBTs, and I think you are achieving this, with the help of the comments we can make.

I have owned MBT sandals for five years and frequently walk over very stony, mountainous ground with them. I also do Pilates and Yoga a lot, at least every other day. However, for the past two months; having worn them incessantly during a tour of European cities from daily arrival by train or cruise ship, I developed a clicking and shooting pain in both knees!

I was 'on the go' in my MBTs at least five hours daily. Cycling, walking up innumerable steps to the Citadels, on board ship power walking etc.

On return home as in Tree Pose I could only reach my ankle on one leg, and not even near my foot on the other (I had to be folded in taxis) - my kinesiologist put my treasured MBTs in a plastic bag and instructed me to only wear them for a maximum of half an hour a day!!

I shall be following his instructions! Ciao Jan

Here is my experience: at 58 the arches of my feet were constantly sore and I had a panic that I might be heading for fallen arches like my siblings. At same time I developed sore right hip. Reading online I found two posts that said MBTS helped with hip and arch problems. I bought a pair of sandals via Singapore site for total of $73 including P&P and within 3 hours of wearing them, felt instant relief in my arches and hip. Over a month I built up gradually more and more use, including hiking up hillsides, with result that my pains stayed away while I was wearing them, and my arches are no longer sore with or without the MBTS, but right hip pain is still there when I take MBTS off. Now, after 2 months of use, I am in same situation - same 'curing' of arch soreness,but only temporary relief from hip pain. I can see the workout these shoes are giving my legs and buttocks, and do Yoga and pilates exercises every day to stretch and compensate for any tension in these areas. Now I have 3 pairs of MBTS - 2 bought from Singapore, and 1 from UK - can see no difference in quality and design. Very important to get accurate size and fit and, for some people, to give your feet regular breaks. I tend to wear mine for 5-8 hours a day, 7 days a week. Rest of the time I go barefoot or wear good arch-support shoes like Merrill or Eco - no problem switching between MBTs and other shoes at all.
My posture has definitely improved, and it seems like my body 'remembers' correct positioning when I'm not wearing them too.
I love these MBTs but am alert to all the complaints from other users, and bearing in mind my age and level of activity and fitness, will be vigilant about using them correctly.

My podiatrist diagnosed a condition similar to Morton's neuroma, same pain but different toes, and told me to find shoes or insoles with good metatarsal support. My search took me to MBT website and many MBT reviews. I learned that some swear by them and some warn of problems. I read that they may help relieve persistent knee pain, which I suffered from. I could not go downstairs without pain. I bought the Sport fitness shoe, and as soon as I put them on, I walked down stairs with NO pain. Today I have 4 pairs, looking at a fifth. I have not encountered any problems. My knee pain is gone. I can even go downstairs in regular shoes without pain. I work at maintaining good balance and core strength, and these shoes help. In a recent Pilates class I found that I had best ability to balance on one foot. I have worn them for almost two years now and have no complaints. I will say that my least favorite style is the sandal that won't stay on my feet. It does not have a strap around the heel.

Thanks for the info. My dad is getting an orthotics doctor in Calgary. His feet have been killing him for months. It took a whole four months to convince him so we're all glad.

I am on my feet all day, and MBT's have been a lifesaver. Just DO NOT wear them every day --rotate shoes or you will not be able to wear anything else, and I think this is when you develop knee and other issues. With peripheral neuropathy, MBT shoes have made the difference between going to work on cement floors or not. Highly recommend them, just don't wear them every day, and also don't wear on uneven surfaces with peripheral neuropathy unless you have great balance.
A great, well built shoe & great for long distance walking.

We are in the technological 21st century.Foot wear has become a part and parcel of modern gadgetry. Only humans wear foot wear. I will ask one question to all of you do you know how to walk correctly?

It is pity so much of medical knowledge is pouring in Right walking is not defined and not taught to Kids and adults as awhole.

MBT and Sketchers are trying to fill the void in the present scenerios.

Walking consist of to the common man 1.Heel strike
2.Foot flat
3.Heel off
4.Toe off

These are the stages described by the old timers with their keen observation powers.

These stages has backing from the body design of Bones and muscles. each stage is achieved by some stages of bony and muscular actions. hence any actions that promotes normal walking is fine. these foot wear are better than the flat footed foot wear.

Medical science has not described how much is the angle at the ankle at Heel strike or How much angle should be there at Heel off stages In an ideal conditions.

In such a scenerio lots of research needs to be carried out on walking.

some of the claims are good but they have exagerated it. Hence apart form the cost trying a variety may be of great help to each of the individuals.

Lot of research needed in this regard in medical fields.

Important: MBT shoes can be risky-- I had been walking on MBT-type shoes for some days--felt they were good for standing-- when I had a tough accident. Walking sideways in a parking lot to avoid some cars parking, I violently and suddenly fell down sideways hurting my lower back and shoulder very baldly. I have never experienced such a hard fall in my life. The boat shape of the shoes didn't allow for any natural reaction to compensate the fall but threw me down feet-to-head long. It feels terribly painful in bed, though it is better standing. Doctors tell me it will take a long while to get pain free and recover. You definitely need to get trained and learn how to walk only straight forward while on these shoes. They are not for normal shoe movements--can be a great rsik without training.

Important: MBT shoes can be risky-- I had been walking on MBT-type shoes for some days--felt they were good for standing-- when I had a tough accident. Walking sideways in a parking lot to avoid some cars parking, I violently and suddenly fell down sideways hurting my lower back and shoulder very baldly. I have never experienced such a hard fall in my life. The boat shape of the shoes didn't allow for any natural reaction to compensate the fall but threw me down feet-to-head long. It feels terribly painful in bed, though it is better standing. Doctors tell me it will take a long while to get pain free and recover. You definitely need to get trained and learn how to walk only straight forward while on these shoes. They are not for normal shoe movements--can be a great risk without training--something the vendors didn't said.

My experience with these shoes has been nothing less than amazing. I have a back issue where my L3 vertebrae is shifted forward and I have pinched nerves. I had been walking with a cane and in pain most of the time. A friend recommended MBTs about 4 or 5 years ago. They were so ugly, I couldn't imagine wearing them, however I tried them at a local shoe store. After walking around the store for a few minutes my back felt much better. I bit the bullet and bought a pair. That was the last day I used my cane to walk. I have been wearing MBTs non-stop ever since. Occasionally I try to wear flat shoes for a night out etc, and the old familiar back pain returns after about 3 hours. I feel that my core has been gently strengthened over the years of wearing them.
It seems that they are becoming very hard to find, I am not sure what is happening with the company, however I have been buying up deals when I can find my size.
A very happy MBT wearer.

I am a senior (going on 76 years) and bought these shoes on sale online. I used them while walking on my treadmill about 3 times and developed a sore left foot between the 1st and 2nd metatarsal bone where they meet the phalanges of the toes. There was a lump about the size of a pea. I have a high arch and these shoes seemed to put a lot more pressure on the ball of my foot. I quit wearing the shoes and the pain is lessening but has still not gone away. The size of the swelling has decreased a lot but is still there to some degree. I don't think that these shoes should be worn by someone with a high arch of my age. I'm going back to my regular walking shoes. If anyone wants to buy my MBT's size 10-1/2 that have been worn 3 times for 1/2 hour each email me at bobd1830 at gmail dot com.

I have a pair of sandal and sneakers by MBT and I find they are wonderful. .

rambling intro but gets into some meat.

yes, barefoot is a foolish name. the mbt's height is the furthest shoe from it. the '5-toed' thin-soled ones are closer to the barefoot intent.

a poor analogy not for it's absurdity but for it's misleading and emotional logic.
a better analogy might be that of equipping a building with external fire escape ladders. a fire-trapped occupant has an alternative escape route but he or she may break her ankle dropping off the ladder to the ground.
the fire-escape offers unintended consequences.

you'll just have to face the fact that feet (and teeth) are evidence of unintelligent designs. constant use of both leads to their quick breakdown.

i say, "live in the 'burbs, always use your car, avoid walking, and get an electric chair."

you'll gain weight but your feet will be baby perfect. or try a number of options that make sense for your only body. and try to follow instructions.

Like the blog. For what it is worth this 55 year old with an arthritic hip can now walk 3 miles on hard pavements. A decade ago this was impossible with normal shoes. I do not think my hip has got worse in a decade and I think constantly wearing these shoes has saved me a decade on a hip replacement. It is a shame that all the studies were so small. The world is full of drs and academics who do small studies for their careers but these add little to scientific knowledge. The public pays for all these useless pieces of research and gets nothing back. For me they are lifesavers.

Thank you so much for correlating all that research and information. I wear my MBT most days because I find them comfortable, particularly on all the hard surfaces around my neighborhood (concrete sidewalks). I tend to strike my heel rather hard, so I like the soft smooshy heel and the curved sole so I don't tend to lean back so much. I wear them for comfort, not for any health claims. I think Skechers sells MBT as "Shape-Ups" and had to re-label all their boxes to eliminate or downplay the health benefits.

All I know is, these shoes saved my life. planters fasciitis has me looking like an old man. but with these shoes I can walk all day. I do think it makes your legs feel weird after long time walking. So it's a trade off, little tired verses can't walk.

Love MBT's. They do great things for my body. Back pain..gone. Tone up my lower body…LOVE them. Have several pair. They are seriously ugly IMO, so I wear them at home while doing housework etc…to the grocery store…errands. They work so well with toning, that I have to work up to an all day stint in two hour increments if I stop wearing them for a while. Changed my life. Wish I had known about them with my first pregnancy. They made my second one a breeze in comparison. Wish I had known about them when I was still working in the hospital too! I am an RN, and MBT's would have made all the difference. I recommend them to everyone. If you don't like them, you haven't tired them. Amazing shoes.

In addition to the cited studies, a new one entitled "Effectiveness of rocker sole shoes in the management of chronic low back pain: a randomized clinical trial" was published in 2013 on Spine journal.
References and abstract can be found online.
In summary: 115 patients with low back pain (LBP) were divided into two groups, one fitted with MBTs and the other with normal gym shoes (ASICS), both weared at least 2h/day. The reduction in LBP was monitored along a 12 month period, concluding that MBTs are no more beneficial than normal shoes.

Advice :-)

Are MBT's known to be of any benefit if suffering from Plantar Fasciitis? I believe I have this condition due to over running to soon into my training as a relatively new runner. I have seen the Doctor, though he was pretty useless to be honest and left me feeling as if I was wasting his time, albeit very nicely. My heels feel considerably bruised and I have pain in my lower ankles. Initial pain occurred on top of both my feet but this seems to have passed, though I had no pain running, it was only afterwards. I haven't run for six weeks and the pain is much the same with little to no improvement. I have well fitted running trainers as advised by a running specialist. The MBT's are for rest days and general recovery, I don't intend to train in them. I'm eager to commence training but worried I will do further harm if I run too soon.

I ordered some discounted MBT sneakers years ago have Phase IV orthotics in them. I have walked in them for years, and do well running in them (27:14 in my first 5k), but if I try to run in my New Balance (MX416WB) CrossTrainers (also with the orthotics), I get shin splints bad!

I am a 62 year old Registered nurse working full time in a very busy clinical unit. Four years ago I had such bad heel pain that I thought I would have to give up nursing. I spent literally hundreds of dollars and saw specialists, physios, chiropractors etc. no one could even give me a diagnosis let alone cure. I started wearing MBTs and have never looked back. My heel pain has disappeared, my posture is 100% improved as I walk more upright and take smaller steps. My chiropractor sees me twice a year just for a tune up, instead of 9 or 10 times because my hips kept rotating. I do not run in them, nor do I climb ladders or anything else. They are purely work shoes amd when i am not wearing them i have no problems at all.

but won't u think that its bottom shape is so weird.

MBTs are the _right_ shoes for the _wrong_ gait.

Essentially all of the "intelligence" of the foot is located in the _front half of the foot_, and with a natural, short walking stride (with the pressure distributed quite evenly throughout the foot, not centered underneath the heel) this sophisticated apparatus becomes active as soon as there is ground contact.

MBTs largely prevent the apparatus from doing its job.

For anatomically correct shoes see https://nwfootankle.com/resources/111-Shoe%20List

I bought a pair at Advanced Chiropractic Centre in Albir ( Alicante), Spain, and they were plain garbage. The soles split open after just a few strolls. A couple of friends bought ATB at the same place, and suffered the same experience. The junk shoes are no longer on sale here. The shoes are an interesting concept, but what ATB produces and sells IS JUNK!... NOT worth a nickel!

I bought a pair at Advanced Chiropractic Centre in Albir ( Alicante), Spain, and they were plain garbage. The soles split open after just a few strolls. A couple of friends bought ATB at the same place, and suffered the same experience. The junk shoes are no longer on sale here. The shoes are an interesting concept, but what ATB produces and sells IS JUNK!... NOT worth a nickel!

I have worn orthotics for almost 30 years for seriously crooked ankles, knees and hips - inwardly pronated knees and Charlie Chaplain feet. The orthotics have served me well preventing the wear and tear I was experiencing in my hips.
At 61 however they have ceased to be effective and I have had chronic foot pain in the front and middle of the foot from osteoarthritis for several years now, relieved by toe stretching and massage but never at bay.
I bought a pair of MBT shoes 2 months ago and have relief in my feet for the first time in years. I am getting a bit of a twinge in the hips again - but heck the MBT shoes are allowing me to 'share the load' wearing them sometimes and normal shoes with orthotics at other times.


As a trained scientist, there is a magic number in statistically validating experiments, and it is 33 or more. In other words to iron out natural variation you require at least 33 similar people to take part in any trial. So for a welldesigned experiment you take 33 men of the same build, weight and age and test their response to the experiment. As MBT shoes cost 270 dollars , it looks like the sponsoring company put a limit on the number of shoes they were willing to release for testing. I wouldn't trust any experiment only carried out on 6 individuals, its looks like undergraduate research to me.

Maybe one effect of buying the shoes is that people walk more to justify the purchase. As walking up right is what we humans are designed for but don't do enough, the shoes might just get us back to where we should be again.
Has anybody tested this?

I seethe daily Mail in the UK is reporting thatMBT have filed for bankruptcy and that a study of 115 people ( a good sample size) has shown that there are no real benefits from wearing the shoes and in fact they can aggravate back pain and cause instability in older wearers. There is a class action suit against a host of manufactures of Rocker sole shoes claiming they used false advertising.

really impressive and helpful article, i like it and i am going to share jefflewis link with my friends. appreciated and keep it up

I've just bought a pair of MBT sneakers because another rocker soled dress shoe took away my neuroma /plantar plate tear pain. I've spent a fortune on orthotics over the last few months and the podiatrist hasn't been able to help me. Nothing has helped the pain until the dressier rocker soled sole but I needed some sports shoes for walking. I've been so limited... I'll try and remember to pop back and give an update but so far the MBTs seem a godsend. I'm sceptical about the 'barefoot technology' bit too and don't really expect to get a better looking bum. I just want to be able to walk again :).

I just bought a pair of MBT's in an effort to combat plantar fasciitis pain (sadly, before finding this article). I decided to try them as my primary pain is on the heel, which these obviously shift weight off of.

While they do shift the weight off the heel, it places it smack-dab at the center point of the arch! Which, as you might know, and this think called a BONE on the outside. Within 15 minutes, I was completely over the plantar fasciitis pain in my heel; primarily because of the 1,000 times worse excruciating pain on the arch!

The only alternative is to rock forward to place the weight on the toe, which as you can imagine is awkward, unstable, and torture to both the calf and shin.

Reading the article above, they're basing their "proof" on testing 10 (TEN) healthy participants? When, in any scientific study, is 10 a meaningful sample? And, if these are supposed to help with various foot and posture issues, wouldn't it be more useful to test with "unhealthy" people, who are at least suffering from ailments they're claiming to help!

At a minimum they should at least be required to conduct a real study, and to have warnings clearly displayed on all boxes and literature for the (often more painful) side effects. $200 down the drain!

PS: Barefoot technology is most emphatically not a full shoe; it's shoes like Vibram which are essentially just thick skins, and don't provide **any** support or walking aid.

I have a pair of MBT shoes which I haven't used for about a year, when I pulled them off the shelf, the centre of the cushioning in the arch area of both shoes , had deteriorated to the extent that they were missing completely. They were stored in a cool dry area out of the light, so I can only put this down to sub-standard manufacture. Has anyone else had this problem?

You’re absolutely right. Thank you!

Nikki De Leon is also a practitioner of acupuncture, so I would take her 'scientific' opinion with as big a pinch of salt as that of MBT themselves. I've also had a pair of MBTs where the foam seemed to dissolve. Refilled the gap with silicone, sorted.

I wore MBT shoes in college where I had to walk all over campus. I never had any issues with them and my legs/knees never hurt. I could walk all over campus and everything would always feel great, they do take time to get used to and the ability to rock while standing is different but can be put to good use while standing in a line waiting.

I've been wearing MBT shoes on/off for over 7-years. I came to the brand through a an orthopedic shoe store -- looking to strengthen my back and break the cycle of years of chronic pain and disc issues after an injury.

Although I don't know how, I can say that wearing MBT makes my back hurt less, particularly on days I need to be on my feet a great deal. That said, when I am out of sharpe will cause more temporary fatigue -- but I seem to get a bit stronger with time wearing them.

My sense is that locking and bracing as I do in flat shoes will creates more of what my chiropractor(s) have called adhesions. Using a rocker sole seems to keep me moving, flowing blood and feeling better.

I've worn out my first pair and purchased two more since... and happy MBT now has an Outlet store on the site so I can find much better prices by being patient.

I personally doubt that an wearing an MBT could cause injury - unless you lose balance and get injured in a fall. Anyone who is that out of shape ought to do some yoga and lift some weights!

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