Friday, November 6, 2009

MBT Shoes - The New Best Running, Training and Recovery Shoes


After a detailed bio-mechanical and practical evaluation of the MBT shoe for both training and recovery I’m really a fan of this so-called “anti-shoe”. It is the contention of this researcher that MBTs will be validated as the new best running shoe for those suffering or recovering from back pain, hip injuries, arthritis, knee problems and conditions of the foot and ankle.

However, unlike the info most prevalently available about MBT shoes creating instability, I believe MBT shoes actually enhance overall stability because of their unique self-righting sole and its ability to act in symphony with the postural muscles. This improves stability as the user's foot interfaces with hard surfaces. The only portion of the gait whereby there is instability in MBT footwear is at heel strike. This functions to absorb the shape of the terrain and lessen pressure on the heel.

MBT functionality could be likened to that of the old Joe Palooka Bob Bag of the 1950's. This was a self-righting punching toy with a counter-weighted bottom. No matter what one did to it, it righted itself in a perfectly vertical format.


Quite simply they are rocker-bottom soled footwear that enhance a user’s ability to maintain natural and proper postural balance. They are super comfortable and nature’s answer to many sports’ injuries and orthopedic complaints of the back and low

er extremity.

“MBT” is an acronym for Masai Barefoot Technology and the shoes were engineered as a result of studying the Masai Tribe in Kenya. These people have a significant lack of knee, foot and ankle problems.

Most running shoes are designed to lessen the n

eed for a good set of balanced muscles. However, MBT design facilitates muscle activity and the recruitment of muscles maintain the balance of the user. This is similar to the benefits to be gained by running barefoot in semi-soft sand.

Although orthotics can be worn inside MBT Shoes, we find they are often unnecessary. That’s right, MBT shoes are a better substitute for most foot orthotics that were prescribed to either relieve heel pain or improve the biomechanics of the foot.


The above diagram showing how MBT design aids the walking/running gait.

The diagram above demonstrates lateral stability and balance fore and aft with MBT footwear.

The unique features of the MBT design are (1) the soft Masai Sensor Cushion and (2) the Self-righting Rocker Bottom Mid-sole.

The sensor cushion is located under the heel, but is longer, less dense and has a different shape than most cushions in the heel of a shoe. On one hand its properties simulate uneven ground, subconsciously soliciting a proprioceptive response from the stabilizing muscles. This compensatory response facilitates adaptation to the terrain.

The balancing action of the mid-sole, with its integrated self-righting/rocker bottom technology, actively exercises the muscles and precisely guides the mid-stance through toe-off motion in a very controlled manner.

All parts of the shoe, work in harmony with the wearer, exercising the entire lower torso and lower extremities while virtually eliminating the stress to joints and ligaments.


This researcher is now an avid MBT wearer. After a stay in the hospital as a result of cardiopathy, I noted that my right knee and right heel were in peril giving me trouble walking. Apparently, the lack of oxygen and immobility resulting from a hospital stay had caused a previously minor condition to rapidly deteriorate. Upon examination by a competent physiatrist (doctor of physical medicine), MRI showed a ruptured Baker’s Cyst combined with severe degeneration of my medial cartilage. I was also suffering from a heel spur and plantar fasciitis. I was determined to walk to rehabilitate my heart condition, so I went shoe shopping and purchased a $120 pair of Salomon XT Wings GTX Trail Runners. These shoes are really top of the line and I rather enjoyed them. My condition was slightly alleviated by them, but not to my satisfaction. After 2 months I purchased a pair of ASCIS Gel Kayanos which although nice and light and comfy, made absolutely no improvement. I’ve always been a fan of New Balance, so I looked for their best trail running shoes and purchased those; again to no avail. I then tried Pearl Izumi’s SynchroSync III, which is a wonderful shoe and the best running shoe I have ever tested by far. This made it possible for me to walk with less pain and even run a little bit. However, after 2 months of wearing those, I was still in pain and not complacent with the results. Only out of curiosity and with lots of skepticism did I try MBTs. I had already decided that Pearl Izumi made the best shoe on the market and since MBT is the “anti-shoe” I suppose that is still true. I was accompanying my sister on a quest for a good walking shoe and this led to my first MBT experience. Wow, I was sold the first time I put them on. The pain in my knee and heel were present, but tolerable. I bought a pair and within 3 day of wearing them I was able to run with minimal heel or knee pain. I’ve saw continual improvement over the next 3 months and today, I’m virtually free of the pain.


  1. I've been wearing Skechers Shape Ups which are based on a similar principle of the rocker sole. But, they are cheaper and look so much nicer!

  2. Ah yes, Skechers Shape UPs. They do seem to be a nice looking shoe. However, our goal as a health and wellness blog is to evaluate the shoes from a therapeutic perspective. We also looked at the Skecher Shape Ups and could not validate any sort of similar therapeutic value. They have the appearance of offering similar benefits, but for the person who is really suffering from back, knee, ankle or foot ailments it our opinion that the same therapeutic benefits could not be derived from Skechers copy of the MBT.

  3. When I bought my first pair of MBT shoes a few months ago, another customer in the store who was trying on the shoes beside me told me about how the shoes prevented her from having to have knee surgery - apparently she cancelled the surgery altogether because the shoes helped her so much.

    I bought them because I was having lots of lower back pain and they did seem to help ease that at least initially. If NOTHING else, these shoes are really really comfortable and great for working in if you must do a lot of standing. They haven't helped me to lose weight though!

  4. I was about to purchase these shoes, as I love the way they feel. However, my physical therapist suggested that since I'm hypermobile and tend to sprain my ankle easily- they may not be the answer for me.
    Wondering what your thoughts are on this?

  5. In response to Carol's comment:
    I think there are several health care professionals and sellers of MBT shoes that might suggest such. However, my personal experience is that the MBTs have a natural self-righting feature whether from front to back or side to side. Thus as long as you don't step on uneven ground or a rock, they provide great stability to the ankle. However, if you do step on something awkward, and they tip to the side, then the motion is emphasized and you could sprain your ankle.

  6. Then, would you say for someone like me, they would be best only on flat surfaces?
    Thanks for your quick response

  7. To Carol:

    Yes, I do believe that these would be good for just about anyone when used on a flat surfaces. If you have worries about ankle sprain, combine them with the following support
    Then you should feel confident in your level of protection.

  8. I am looking into buying a pair of MBTs and will want to use them for walking, running and training. There seems to be several different "styles"? The Fora, the M.Walk, the Sport2 etc. I can't find any information on what style is best for running, training - or if it doesn't make a difference? Any thoughts? Thanks.

  9. You should purchase the new MBT "Athletic Collection" that is specifically made for slow running and more aggressive walking.

  10. What is the best MBT Shoe for Plantar Fascitis? Is there one style that would help the most to relieve this condition?

  11. No particular model "Burke", they all function well for helping relieve "plantar fasciitis".

  12. I am wondering if there would be a problem with knee replacements. I am one year out from TKR of both knees. Will these work for me and do they have the same claims as the skechers-working the legs, butt etc.?

  13. Probably best to ask your physician if you can wear a rocker bottom soled shoe. However, my inclination is to think it would be the best shoe you could wear for such. However, best to wait until after the post-surgery rehab phase. Should be low impact helpful in the long run. Hope this is helpful

    these MBT shoes are the originals and preceded the copies that Sketchers has tried to produce. There is no comparison. MBTs are much better

  15. Unfortunetly, when walking outside it is not possible to always have a lat surface. I broke Both of my ankles while wearing my sketchers shape ups. My right ankle rolled when I stepped on an slightly uneven area in the street. It fractured instantly. When I tried to continue standing on my left leg the shoe actually wobbled front to back and sideways. The left ankle twisted, rolled, & broke also. FYI

  16. In response to Jennifer Schlein Bryant:

    We certainly don't recommend Sketchers here. Although they make some of the claims that MBT does, my opinion in my brief experience with Sketchers is that they do not function like MBT shoes. Thus, I can't attest to their stability. Sorry about your ankles. That really must have been a terrible experience.

  17. very nice and informative blog really very useful information
    i like it my favorite running show are trainers shoes

  18. Are MBT shoes suitable for diabetic patient?
    In what way it helps? :)

  19. In what way MBT shoes can helps diabetics patient?

  20. Yes indeed MBT shoes are great for diabetic patients. It helps by improving the walking gait and lowering impact on tissues that may be sensitive because of diabetes.

  21. responding to Betsy, MBT shoes offer a very soft feel to the walking gait, helping relieve pressure on tissue and joints that may be sensitive due to diabetic neuropathy.

  22. thank you for your respond backdoc :)
    by the way, is mbt shoe suitable for basketball player? if yes, in what way?

  23. mbt solved my bunion and low arch pain. Can i run in them to keep my weight down?

  24. Hi Long Beach,

    Sorry it took so long for me to respond. Although not originally designed for running, I find that MBT shoes can make very sound running shoes. This is providing you are not running races, because they are quite heavy. However, they now have a model made for running and if you were in the market for another pair, this would be ideal. Otherwise, if you just want to train to lose weight, any athletic version of the MBT shoes could be used for running. One caution would be that unless you have strong ankles, I would stay away from running on uneven surfaces. Be well...

  25. Hi ,
    This is great information.Thanks for sharing. What shoes would you recommend to get rid of L4-L5 disc prolapse,Sciatica and mild hip arthritis.
    MBTs come in various types and models,would it be ok to buy any(is it just the technology that is impirtant) or is there a special one thats specially made for back problems.
    I'm 30 yrs young.


  26. Hi Kirti,

    MBT models are constantly changing, however, there are definitely some that are more geared for the active exerciser than others. However, please note that there are not any shoes, including the MBTs that will get rid of a disc prolapse, sciatica, or arthritis. That being said, the MBT concept is likely to be the best shoe one could wear for these types of conditions. The expectation should be to have the shoe "do no harm" to the existing condition and by nature of not being an irritant, facilitate some healing. It should be part of an overall plan to heal and stabilize your condition(s) to be the best you can be. There are lots of consideration and you should have the guidance of a competent health care practitioner or wellness coach for every step of the way.

    If you are attempting to run in the MBT shoes, you should purchase their line of shoes made for running as the first choice. When I originally wrote this article, they only made shoes they considered good for walking. I personally found those to be very beneficial for allowing me to run some, when I could not run at all in conventional shoes. If for some reason, you don't like the running versions, at least get the outdoor models that are made of Goretex. They are the next best MBTs for running. I hope this was helpful for you.

  27. I enjoyed reading it. I'm supposed to be somewhere else in a minute but I stuck to reading the story. I love the DC Shoes there, too. :D

  28. This is for Sharon T. who wrote to me about her recent purchase of MBTs and their possible effect on pelvic tilt.
    Apparently, she is seeing a chiropractor who thought that her "middle left back pain" was a result of an uneven pelvis. The chiropractor recommended 45 minutes of daily walking as part of the overall treatment. Sharon describes herself as relatively sedentary, with the exception of keeping up with her 3 boys. Sharon is now up to 30 minutes of daily walking and has now been told by her doctor to get MBT shoes and start with them slowly as she goes through a break-in period.
    # 1) She finds the MBTs so comfy that she wonders whether she needs to break them in as slowly as 5-10 minutes per day in the beginning. ANSWER..although some folks might find them hard to get used to, the break-in period, if any, is very short for MBTs. Most folks can wear them for 1-2 hours the first couple days and then be wearing them all day after that. It really depends on how stable one feels in them because they cause the wearer to walk with a different gait than they are used to and balance can be an issue, especially in older individuals.
    2)Will they help with the mis-aligned or uneven pelvis? initial answer is "they will likely help create an overall balanced foundation"; being that the pedal(foot) foundation is what supports the skeletal frame above, including the knees, pelvis and spine. However, anomalies and curvatures of the spine and pelvis can also be the cause of a unbalanced pedal foundation. So, in practice all aspects need to be considered. Working on one helps the other and vice versa. I'm sure that the chiropractor is aware of such and likely paying attention to both aspects. It should be noted that there is sometimes such an extreme pelvic imbalance, that one might also require foot orthoses and/or a heel lift to help align the entire human frame.

    Overall, I feel that Sharon will find walking easier and better for her back while wearing MBT shoes.

  29. I am seeing a chiropractor to treat a herniated disc in the L1/S2 region. I am desperate to find an exercise regime to strengthen my back muscle as I am experiencing muscle spasm in that area. Swimming backstroke, yoga and pilates had not helped as I tend to twist my pelvic regions unintentionally and had made my back pain worse. As I already owned 2 pairs of MBT, I asked my chiropractor if it's OK for me to wear them. He said it will not make a difference, and so I did. I find that it makes the muscle spasm better but after day 2, my back pain will be worse. So I would stop wearing my MBT when that happened. And I'd repeat the process. Is the back pain normal? What do I do in this case - do I carry on wearing it until my body adjusts to the new way of walking? Or do I always have to do my wear-pain-stop-repeat routine?

  30. Certainly back pain is never normal. That being said, wearing MBT shoes removes strain from the joints and discs of the spine, but does sometimes place a greater stain on the core muscles that support the back. Perhaps that is the case with you. You can try wearing them for 10 days or so until you get used to the new way of walking and postural changes implemented by the MBT shoes. If the irritation from wearing the shoes does not subside after 10 days, I would say that you should stop wearing the shoes until your back condition is resolved.

  31. Hi back doc. I have a slipped disk on my lower back and always have back pain when standing even for a while also feet pain on daily basis. Using the MBT will be good for me ?

    1. Sure Lio, MBT shoes are a good idea for almost anyone that has back pain, regardless of the type of back condition. You cannot not rely on these alone to resolve your back condition, but certainly one of the best shoes for those on their feet a lot. The factory went through some hard financial times and the MBT shoes are harder to find, with the exception of internet dealers. Another great alternative is called: Abeo rocker bottom shoes that can only be purchased at "The Walking Company".


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