Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT) Shoes are NOT Barefoot Shoes

For those of you who aren’t familiar with MBT (Masai Barefoot Technology) shoes, these are shoes that are marketed as shoes that were inspired by the barefoot Masai tribes in Africa and offer the same benefits as going barefoot without the risks of literally going barefoot.   They call it the “Anti-Shoe.”

MBT shoes like rocking chair

I like to call it the “Rocking Chair Shoe.”  Cause it looks more like a rocking chair than a barefoot shoe.

Here you can watch how the “technology” allows your foot to rock along the ground like god did not intend.

Basically they are trying to sell the benefits of barefoot or natural walking.  They are marketing the product in the same way Vibram FiveFingers or Nike Free are.  This is what MBT says about the benefits of their shoes:

The positive effect of the MBT is based on the principle of “natural instability“. An effect which can, in fact, be achieved without the benefit of high-tech footwear: by simply walking barefoot on soft, uneven, natural ground such as sand or moss. However, in today’s thoroughly modern world this is not always easy to do – but the health benefits are significant. While wearing MBTs the body is forced to maintain its natural balance, thereby stimulating and exercising the body’s supporting muscle system which results in numerous pro-body benefits.

My only issue is how in the world does walking on rocking chair-like shoes in any way imitate natural barefoot walking??  If anything their shoes contradict their own belief because walking in their shoes does not in anyway create “natural instability.”  It’s unnatural to walk with something in the middle of your foot which causes you to rock forward.

I should state that I have never walked or ran in a pair of MBT shoes so I can make an objective review of their product.  But just by looking at them I feel like they couldn’t have anything remotely to do with barefoot-ness.  It looks like there’s at least an inch and a half of extra padding in the middle of the shoe.  Last time I checked my foot looked like this:


I’m more inclined to believe that a barefoot shoe should somehow look similar to my foot and as well have as minimum padding as possible.  I can see this with Vibram FiveFingers shoes because surprise surprise they actually look like my feet (and as well have very little padding).

vibram-fivefingers looks like barefoot

The same can be said about Nike Free’s since they minimize padding and create a very flexible sole which can move with natural momentum of your foot.

nike free is flexible

But MBT shoes don’t look anything like Nike Free’s or Vibram FiveFingers.  Granted I can’t speak about the benefits of these shoes since I’ve never tried a pair, but a part of me feel like this is just an extremely well marketed shoe that is taking advantage of “barefoot” hype and fooling customers along the way.  I mean, can you imagine running in these kind of shoes?  I feel like you would end up hurting or killing yourself.

Hate is a Strong Word blogger said it eloquently when he stated:

Anyone I’ve seen with them [MBT shoes] seems to be a little on the weebly side, just waddling around with what resembles a couple of meat pies strapped to their feet.

My unsolicited non-professional recommendation is that if you are serious about getting in shape, taking care of your feet, and getting real benefits from barefooting that you steer clear of these shoes.  That is unless you like “meat pies” strapped to your feet.  For a better barefoot experience look into Vibram FiveFingers or Nike Free shoes.

5 thoughts on “Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT) Shoes are NOT Barefoot Shoes”

    • @wes I’m not sure if I understood you correctly, but you are saying that you were in a wheelchair for 5 years, you bought a pair of MBT shoes, and then 3 weeks later you could walk again? If that’s the case then I have to give more credit to MBT than I initially did. They are like miracle workers.

  1. I have been a big MBT fan for the last three years – I stand and walk at work all day and before I got the shoes my feet ached all the time. I tried all kinds of things – different brands of shoes, arch supports, you name it. Since wearing the MBTs (sandals, boots, “dress shoes” – and yes, they do look a bit strange, but then so do the VFFs) I have not had any pain at all, and my posture seems to be better. They also made it easier for me to exercise (walking) because I feel I can walk in them all day with very little effort.

    I just started running less than a year ago (not in MBTs, though) and three weeks ago bought my first pair of VFFs. The transition to a forefoot strike for me was a no-brainer, and after reading all the advice on “start slowly,” etc etc, I was mystified as to why I have been able to run a 5K quite comfortably in the VFFs almost out of the box. I think it is because in the MBTs my heel never hits the ground; the foot strike is all in the midfoot and forward. I won’t be giving up on MBTs anytime soon (can’t wear my VFFs to work, for instance) but I would be interested to hear if anyone else has had a similar experience.

  2. I bought a pair of MBTs back in 2009 because I’ve always hated tennis shoes and was shocked by how comfortable they are. I don’t know how much they simulate bare feet but I walk as much as possible bare footed and I never minded wearing these shoes.
    I spend my days up on my feet chasing toddlers in a daycare. It’s grueling and there’s rarely downtime. I could spend all day on my feet and walk home fine.
    Once I made the mistake of getting my MBTs wet and had to wear my Converse to work.
    I was in pain at the end of the day! So I stand by my MBTs.
    I think the biggest concern is there is so much padding you do lose the ability to feel the ground and driving was a little weird at first.
    They do stand up pretty well though. It’s been a year and a half and they’ve just broken down enough that I need new tennis shoes. They’re valid shoes but probably not “barefoot” shoes.

  3. I have similar shoes (birkenstock-like sandals), and I love them, but only for a specific use: I stand at my desk all day long, instead of sitting. For standing still for 9 hours, they are absolutely perfect – I get a little exercise by rocking back and forth, and can always find a comfortable position.

    However, I can’t imagine running in them. My standard distance is the half marathon, whereas I can barely use the shoes to walk from one office to the next. In fact, I always slip out of the “rocking chair” shoes and into another pair of indoor sandals even if I’m just going to the cafeteria in my building.


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