MBTs or Masai Barefoot Technology

There are some good news stories which spread by themselves without excessive advertising or promotion. One day, no one has heard of them and the next, everyone wants them. This is just how it is with MBTs which is set to replace the humble shoe with its antithesis – the anti-shoe.


MBTs or Masai Barefoot Technology is not technically a shoe. It is rather a type of medical sports training equipment which is worn on the foot. Called an anti-shoe, its unique pivot, lack of heel and thick, cushioned sole allows it to make hard and flat walking surfaces feel soft and uneven. The technology part comes from research undertaken by Swiss engineer Karl Muller; who took the best part of a decade studying the problems of back, knee and Achilles tendon issues. While working in Asia, he came to the conclusion that our habit of walking on hard, flat surfaces was causing much of the problems. The result is the MBT named after the tribes people of Masai. Though these people walk on uneven surfaces, often carrying heavy burdens for long distances, their posture is erect and back or joint trouble uncommon.


The technology behind the anti-shoe allows the whole body to work more efficiently. Instead of having a heel, the MBT has a rolling element for the (this is the technical term) proprioceptive muscle tuning. This means that the MBT has a pivot in the centre of the sole and no heel which results in the person wearing the shoe having to balance and to straighten up while walking.


Balancing encourages active musculature; this contrasts with the heavy joint walking without the MBT where each step essentially bashes our joints. With active musculature the muscles act as shock absorbers reducing the trauma to the joints.


By putting one the MBTs the wearer is forced into an erect carriage, which looks very positive but which also promotes a healthier physique. The biomechanical function of the MBT makes the muscles in the foot work to balance and support the body by activating the primary stabilizing muscles in the calves, thighs, buttocks, hips and abdomen.


The MBTs have hit the headlines through the health and fitness aspect claimed by the manufacturer. Wearing the shoe while walking or exercising can increase the benefits as much as five times regular exercise, while toning all the important muscles at the same time.


However, the more interesting aspect to the shoe is in the Health area. The MBT is a therapeutical aid that appears to reduce pain although the manufactures are also clear that it does not treat the illness itself. The list of conditions it can alleviate is impressive and includes: joint and spine problems; osteoporosis; arthritis; multiple sclerosis; and even diabetes.


The Road Test


Four days in and I must confess I am impressed. While I cannot vouch for the long list of aliments being cured; as I suffer from none on that list; my first introduction to MBTs could not have been more interesting. Based in the country, the nearest outlet where I could get fitted for the shoes was in Gorey. The La Crà ¨me boutique on Esmonde Street carried the range and a trained fitter, owner and manager, Marian McKenna. I was told to make an appointment but left it to the last minute. Leaving Dublin at 11am on last Thursday morning, I rang and sought an appointment for the time I estimated I would reach Gorey. Although obviously busy, Marian promised to squash me in before lunch.


I arrived and was ushered upstairs where some fellow MBT people were being fitted. I engaged in conversation with one very smiley lady whose husband was having his shoes fitted. It turned out that she suffered from arthritis in her feet amongst other ailments and could not walk much above 200 metres without pain and the severe need to rest. She heard Marian interviewed on the local radio about the MBTs and decided to find out if the MBTs could help her distressing condition. A month later, she is positively glowing. She walks regularly and even danced at another social event; something that she would not have done before. An MBT plant? I think not. Her enthusiasm for the MBTs was real.


As too was Marian’s. She regaled me with story after story of people entering the shop on crutches and leaving upright and mobile. At this stage, I was eagerness itself to put on a pair.


The MBTs come in two basic designs; trainer variants and sandals. Both, in today’s varied shoe ranges, do not look out of place. Indeed, the teenage daughter of friends’ expressed great encouragement when she saw the MBTs. She did not know they were MBTs, and actually mistook them for another very trendy range (the name of which I have quickly forgotten) but they look good and received her ‘cred’ blessing.


There is also very clever tie mechanism for the laces; so clever that while I watched Marian tighten the trainers in the shop, I did not know how to subsequently loosen them. Two day’s later and I beginning to be afraid that I will have cut the laces to open the MBT, I finally find Marian and asked for help. The answer is that in order to loosen them, one must push the plastic lace holder together. It sounds strange but if you have an MBT in your hand, it is really very easy. Can’t figure out why I didn’t figure it out before, but like most things in life; ‘Once you know how†¦’


Four days on and it is a bit soon to see if I have toned up my muscles; while I have few ailments, I have plenty need of toning! However, the unique balancing effect was really brought home to me on Sunday. Roped into reading in church I faced the congregation and began to read. Not normally a nervous person, there is something about reading a lesson that makes me conscious of my stance. It could not have been any more erect at the top of the church; but nor could it have been any more wobbly. The more I tried to remain perfectly still; and balanced; the more I felt my muscles tighten; first this one, then that one; then I would shift first this way, then that. A more vigorous workout at the gym could not be imagined!


Oh, and one other noticeable effect. I would have said I stand tall as a rule, but the MBTS make me stand even talker with positive effects on both the ribcage and lungs. The congregation may not have enjoyed this effect either but MBTs make you sing louder and reach higher notes!