Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT) shoes are marketed by the manufacturers as the ‘anti-shoe’ as they are supposed to mimic barefoot working. They also claim that they increase muscle activity so give the wearer a workout when using them. The shoes design is supposed to have been inspired by the barefoot Masai people from Africa who have no postural of back problems. The rocker sole of the shoe is supposed to mimic this barefoot walking style of the Masai people.
Do MBT shoes work? The research is mixed. Biomechanical research has shown that there are differences in the gait pattern when wearing the MBT shoe and a control shoe, but that research does not show that the gait with them is actually better. Clinical trials have show mixed, but generally positive results.
Clinical experience with MBT shoes is also mixed. There are claims that they do help many people, but the change in posture and gait pattern are just as likely to hurt people. There are good reasons to believe that the increased and different muscle activity will probably benefit many people, even if the shoe is only worn for short period during the day to get a training effect. The company does claim that there should be an important training period before using MBT shoes for any length of time.
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