Are MBT walking shoes a miracle shoe? Can they really boost your
metabolism, tone muscles and reduce back, knee and foot pain? In this
article, I'll answer these questions based on my evaluation of the
current research as well as hundreds of customer reviews.
A few years ago these shoes were very popular and claimed to tone and tighten your leg and butt muscles. Could it really be that easy? Just put on these sneakers and go about your daily routine and get toned? It sounded too good to be true...
And it was too good to be true. These companies were sued for making false claims.
Even though they can't get you toned and fit, these sneakers do have some benefits. They can relieve some ankle and foot pain due to the rocker platform they are built upon.
MBT walking shoes are a particular brand, also known as the
antishoe because the construction is different from a regular shoe. They
are truly the forerunner in this kind of technology, although many
other companies have now developed similar brands.
MBT, which stands for Massai Barefoot Technology, is based on the
Massai tribe from East Africa. They walk barefoot yet hardly experience
any joint or back pain. In addition, they are in good health and have
incredible athletic ability.
These incredible traits of the Massai were discovered by Swiss
Engineer, Karul Muller, who found relief from his back pain when he
walked barefoot over rice paddy fields while living in South Korea.
While trying to understand this phenomenon, Muller came across the
secrets of the Massai tribe.
After returning to Switzerland, Muller developed the footwear
technology to mimic the instability of soft, uneven surfaces. In 1996,
the MBT Walking Shoe was born.
Since their debut a few years ago, many of these brands have dropped in popularity and price due to the lawsuits about false advertising. Many shoe stores don't even carry them anymore and Skechers has even renamed their style from "Shape Ups" to the "Work Shape Up Shoe". Here are the styles that are still available in 2018:
Hoka walking and running shoes are relatively new to the scene and are built on a rocker platform similar to MBT shoes. They are great if you have pain in your heels or balls of your feet (source: footankle.com). They provide a lot of cushioning and are a great option if you have to be on your feet all day. Click the link above to see all of the Hoka shoes currently available.
- The MBT Women's Sport3 Walking Shoe is a great option if you have wide feet. A lot of the negative reviews for this style are related to the material of this shoe. This version of MBT walking shoes has more mesh material than leather which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It means the shoe is more breathable and will keep your feet more dry than a leather shoe. That doesn't mean they are going to wear out more quickly. It is still going to give the effects of an MBT walking shoe. It will create an unstable platform for you to walk on, which can help improve your posture and relieve pressure on your joints and back. In addition, many walkers wear them because they help relieve foot problems.
- The MBT Men's Sport3 Walking Shoe Men helps alleviate hip, heel and arch pain.
It is made to be lightweight, breathable and comfortable.
- The MBT Women's Jambo (LE) Athletic Walking Shoe is very comfortable and I like the price. If this style is available in your size, it's going to give you a lot of comfort.
The Skechers Women's Shape Ups - Strength Fitness Walking Sneaker is made for comfort and breathability, making it a great fitnesss walking shoe. And it's a great price, too. Women that have to be on their feet all day love wearing these shoes. Some describe them as "walking on clouds".
They are based on the concept of "natural instability", such as when
you walk on sand or an uneven surface. This forces your body to
constantly adjust its balance, which engages and exercises your body's
support system. In other words, your body has to work harder to maintain
its balance in these types of shoes than in conventional shoes,
resulting in a greater calorie burn and muscle workout.
Additionally, this activation of your body's support muscles
helps alleviate joint and muscle pain. Apparently, the heel-toe strike
that we use when walking in conventional shoes is unnatural, which leads
to negative effects on our joints and gate.
This video goes into detail about how to properly wear these shoes. It's definitely worth watching.
Okay, so everything so far sounds reasonable, but did I mention that I was a cynic? I had to review the research and get to the facts. The MBT website lists several studies it has conducted on the benefits of this footwear technology. These benefits include
These results are certainly exciting and intriguing, yet many
of these results are based on studies that had few participants in them,
making it difficult to generalize these results to the rest of us. In
addition, many of these studies state that more research is needed to
substantiate the benefits.
All of the other footwear companies have conducted studies on the benefits of their particular brands. For example, Skechers conducted four clinical studies on their Shape Ups and found that people experience:
Reebok and New Balance report similar findings. I think it is
important to mention that these studies were either conducted directly
by the footwear companies themselves or at least commissioned by them.
In 2010 the American Council on Exercise (ACE), teamed
up with the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, to perform an
independent study on the MBT's, Skechers Shape-Ups and the Reebok
Easy-Tones. They asked 12 females to wear these shoes as well as a
regular athletic shoe and complete fitness trials on a treadmill. They
measured their muscle activation while wearing each type of shoe.
The results? "All three toning shoes tested showed no
statistically significant increases in either exercise response or
muscle activation during the treadmill trials, when compared to the
normal athletic shoes tested." In other words, the workout shoes were no
better for firming and toning that plain old athletic shoes. To read
more about this study, visit the
Ace Fitness Site.
And it gets even worse...In 2012, Skechers USA agreed to pay $40 million to resolve allegations in the U.S. that it deceived customers into believing its Shape-ups shoes could help them lose weight and firm their buttocks and legs. In 2013, a federal class-action case was settled that gave approved claims a repayment for their purchase of Shape-Ups, Resistance Runner shoes, Podded Sole Shoes or Tone-Ups. The settlement was a result of ads that these shoe companies ran with celebrities telling viewers how the MBT walking shoes helped them lose weight and get toned.
So, will you become fit and toned just by wearing MBT walking shoes?
I doubt it. There is just no substitute for good old-fashioned
exercise. I think you are better off purchasing a great pair walking
shoes (see my
best walking shoes
list), which are usually cheaper anyway.
While I was a little underwhelmed by the studies, I was very impressed with the hundreds of positive reviews these types of shoes received by those who have worn them. Have a look at a store like www.zappos.com and you can read about how much people like this footwear. For example, people write in that these shoes:
In addition, many reported that they felt they received more
of a workout when wearing the shoes versus their regular pair. It was
also reported that they are great for those who have to stand on their
feet for long periods of time.
The downside to these shoes are the price, a pair will set you
back a $100 or more. And they somewhat resemble your grandmother's shoe
(sorry grandma!). Although the manufacturers are making a good effort to
make them more stylish.
The research, combined with the hundreds of positive customer reviews suggest that these shoes might be worth purchasing, but you're not going to lose a lot of weight and get super toned. I am not ready to throw away my conventional walking shoes just yet, however.
Think of the MBTs as a piece of exercise equipment - a tool that
can help enhance some of your workouts. You could use them while running
errands or incorporate them into your fitness walking routine and use
them as much or as little as you want provided they are comfortable and
enjoyable to exercise in.
In my research I came across some people who complained that
their MBT walking shoes caused them pain. It's possible these people did
not follow the instructions for how to wear these shoes - you must only
wear them for short periods of time at first and work up to wearing
them for an entire day. But just like any pair of shoes, they aren't
for everyone. If you are overweight or suffer from stability problems, I
would check with your doctor first before wearing them.
I don't believe MBT Walking Shoes are a wonder shoe, but if you have the extra money, go ahead and give them a try. And if not, don't despair - just keep walking briskly most days of the week and you're sure to get fit and look great.