Written by Doctor of Physical therapy Kat Lieu.
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Humans were born to walk the face of this Earth bare-footed, like the Masai tribe. However, this can no longer be the case as our world is filled with man-made flat concrete, cement, and wooden floors. Our feet are constantly abused with every step– that’s why good shoes make all the difference. Innovative shoes such as MBTs and other rocker-bottoms may help correct our poor walking ways and protect our feet, as well as help us tone-up, shape-up and perhaps lose some weight. Too good to be true? Well read on. Let’s compare some of the “special” shoes out there now. All of these are a podiatrist’s worst nightmare, by the way. Why? For one– They do not need to be customized or prescribed. Secondly, they can perhaps reduce foot pain, prevent plantar fasciitis, tone ankle and leg muscles, and stretch the Achilles tendon. They may even stimulate and strengthen the vestibular system.
We have the following shoes: MBTs: Masai Balance Technology, Chung Shi shoes, Shape Ups, Sketchers Shape Ups, Reeboks Easy Tones, and Fit Flops. All these shoes work by enhancing our natural gait cycle, with the exception of the Shape Ups from http://www.shapeupshoes.com/. Let’s review each one:
MBT shoes: PRO: I am a physical therapist who has been wearing MBT shoes—a wide variety of them from Mary-Janes, to sneakers, to formal shoes—and I can attest to the fact that they do tone your legs. Especially the hamstrings (the back thigh muscles). They also improve your standing and walking posture and decrease your ankle pain—I used to wear orthotics for over-pronation and my flat feet, but ever since I started wearing MBTs, I have not needed orthotics. I also have less ankle pain when I walk long distances in these shoes. As for shaping the tummy—well, I have been doing some oblique exercises and notice a muscular cut in my abs, so I can’t say this is from MBTs. Do MBTs help you lose weight? Well not unless you run in them everyday—and I have not been running in them. My weight has remained the same for one year and I walk a lot daily. I have to say that the inherent design and build of this shoe is innovative– I believe these were the first Anti-shoes made. The soft heel will not lose its effect even after a year. The shoes do not get dirty easily. So you are paying for quality. The heel is also thicker, forcing you to do a heel to toe gait and when you’re standing, you have more ankle pumping action, leading to musculature usage. This increase blood flow in the legs and may decrease varicose veins and leg swelling.
CON: They are expensive—over 200 dollars for the newer designs. You can find cheaper steals that are out-of-date designs, less than a hundred dollars at Century 21, Shoe Mania, and other shoe stores. The shoes are clunky in design, comparable to “diabetic-shoes.” However, the shoes have been redesigned to look a bit more fashionable.
These shoes, as with all the other rocker shoes, are not meant for those who have poor balance in regular shoes and vestibular problems—though you may benefit from wearing these shoes if you train in them, to improve your vestibular system. You need to be trained by a professional though. So if you have dizzy spells, and vestibular problems, be warned. You need to be careful not to trip and fall in these shoes.
And will they make your butt look amazing? Well, it’ll make it look a bit firmer, but you’ll have to do squats and other booty-moves to get super-amazing buttocks.
On to the next shoes:
Sketchers Shape Up Shoes: PRO: I believe the idea is similar to MBT, however, the heel is not as soft, thick and not as mechanically efficient as the original MBT. The designs are prettier and less clunky. The cost is less: around 100 for the sneakers and a little more for the dressier shoes. Similar benefits to the MBTs, though you may have to wear these for a longer period of time to notice a difference. You may have to switch to a new pair of shoes sooner too.
CON: Similar to the MBT shoes– the heels are thinner. I have not worn these shoes in person, but from the reviews I’ve read, these shoes are not as effective as MBTs. These shoes are not miracle shoes but they will make your legs toner and shapelier.
Fit Flops: I have no experience with Fit Flops. They do look nice though. I believe it’s the same premise as the MBT and Sketchers Shape Up Shoes.
Reebok Easy Tone Shoes: Heel and toe area bumpers, with similar thickness– the heel thickness does not appear to be as adequate as MBTs. The mechanics are different here. Instead of a cushioned heel strike forcing you to roll your foot to toe off (which leads to a longer stretch, you have a back “bumper” and a front “bumper”– quick heel strike, quick toe off. You’re muscles are worked in shorter but quicker bursts). There is a wide variety and the price is nice. I can’t say whether these are more or less effective as MBTs because they use different mechanics, though I would imagine the shoe would be even more effective if the two bottom “bumpers” are thicker.
Chung Shi Shoes: http://www.chungshiusa.com/index.php?page=concept
The benefits stated in the site rival those of MBTs, however, I have never seen this shoe or touched it in person before. Mechanically from the pictures, I would say these are probably designed like Easy Tone shoes.
The ones with the thicker heels may work like MBTs, but honestly, I have no first hand experience with these shoes.
Kmart Thera Shoes:
What a rip off of MBTs– even the design. Still I would imagine this shoe works the same way– it’s cheaper. I don’t support knockoffs because I’m a writer who has experienced having my work plagiarized, so having another brand knock off another brand so blatantly is just not kosher in my book. At least make the design different.
The first picture is the knockoff. And the second picture is the MBT version, which came out long ago (my first pair in fact!)
Shape Ups: Not the Sketchers’ line, but a shoe called the Shape Up Shoes:: See the big picture to the left. Somehow, I’m just not sold by these shoes. If you just stand on them for 30 minutes to “work out”, okay, but I would imagine you would land flat on your face if you wear these outdoors. And if you try jogging in these, good luck. You can definitely jog in MBTs– they decrease the ground reaction force that hits your heels with each heel strike. With Shape Ups, the design seems to put too much strain on your dorisflexors to counteract the forced ankle plantarflexion. In Simpler terms, I do not recommend Shape Ups. All the others I’ve listed before this shoe, I would recommend for others to try, especially MBT shoes. SO the bottom line is– I’m all for anti-gravity shoes! Try them and have fun! But be careful not to trip! And ah, these shoes are addicting– you may never be able to go back to regular shoes!
Hope this article helps. Perhaps I’ll be seeing more people in anti-gravity shoes on the streets soon!
Here are links to some of the shoes you can buy:
Swiss Masai MBT Shoes
And google reebok easy tone: My new verdict on the Easy Tones is that though it has three bumpers, the three bumpers aren’t thick or sturdy enough to be as efficient as the MBT shoes.
On another note, people should really stop wearing shoes with flat bottoms. These shoes do nothing for your feet, only cause problems in the long run.
Happy walking people~
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