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Fit Shoes: MBT Anti-Shoe test

Monday, 11 May 2009 | Tags:

Can a shoe really help you get in shape just by wearing it? A variety of muscle-toning shoes have come on the market in recent years. We put one popular shoe to the test to see if it really lives up to its claims.

The Basics

In general, “fit” shoes are designed based on a variety of theories that claim making you walk a certain way creates more work for your muscles, thereby helping to tone and sculpt your body.

The MBT “anti-shoes” (MBT=Masai Barefoot Technology) were created based on the gait of Masai tribe members in Kenya, who for centuries have walked on the semi-soft sand of the savanna, and who also have perfect posture. The technology behind the MBT anti-shoe design, with its extra thick soles, is meant to mimic the walking style and the walking surface in one.

The Claims

The result of wearing a “fit” shoe is meant to make your legs and body work harder, and thus burn more calories.

MBT claims the anti-shoe helps “solve knee and back problems, relieve tension in the neck, ease joint pains — and more or less in passing helps to tone and shape firm buttocks [sic] and thighs. And burning [sic] more calories when standing and slow running compared to ordinary shoes.”

The Opinions

There is a list of studies on the MBT website documenting the benefits of the shoe. However, all of these seem to be sponsored by the company. 

We talked to Dr. Ian Yu, Podiatrist, about the shoes. Dr. Yu said he recognizes that the shoes have some benefits, but he also has concerns: “It’s almost like walking on a wobble board. For the wrong patient, it could create a lot of instability and increase the risk of falling.”

The Cost

MBT shoes cost around $275 (CAD) and are available in fitness stores across Canada as well as online. They come in a variety of running shoe styles, and are also recently available in sandal and boot styles.

The Competition

MBT claims to be the originator of this muscle-toning technology, however there are now many related products on the market, including: FitFlops, Skecher Shape Ups, Reebok Easy Tone, Nike, and Earth Exer Fit shoes.

TEST CRITERIA

Anna headed to the gym, and with the help of Excercise Physiologist James Wendland, they measured how hard her muscles were working while wearing regular running shoes vs. wearing the MBT shoes. With a prick (or four) of the finger, James tested Anna’s blood lactate level after each workout. The higher the number, the harder her muscles are working.

Overall observations

As far as comfort goes, Anna said it felt like there was a big hunk of mud stuck to the sole of the shoe, but aside from that, they felt comfortable overall.

Regular fast walking (flat surface)

The lactate levels in Anna’s blood after a session of walking on a flat plane showed a slight difference between the two shoes.

  • Running shoes: 1.6
  • MBT shoes: 1.9

Steep incline walkingBut after a more difficult workout, the lactate levels were the same for each shoe. We were hoping to see a much larger difference.

  • Running shoes: 2.1
  • MBT shoes: 2.1

Do the MBT anti-shoes get the A&K Stamp of Approval?

No. The results in our tests weren’t significant enough to warrant spending nearly $300 on these shoes. Fitness expert James Wendland says he would recommend increasing your workout, which is free, to get the same results.

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