Wednesday, May 31, 2006

MBTs and me: a product review

So I got some new shoes the other week: Masai Barefoot Technology, they're called, and all I have to say about that is this: if the Masai have to spend the amount of money on their bare feet that I had to spend on these shoes, it's a wonder they can eat.

Anyway, I promised a review of the shoes.

They were recommended to me by a number of orthopods and physical therapists for plantar fasciitis. That's a condition in which the bottom of your foot stretches too much, or doesn't stretch enough, or something, and you end up with heel pain that makes it nearly impossible to walk after a day of work. So, taking a deep breath, I ordered a pair of these babies online.

Consider the MBT shoe: it is big. As in, it looks like a basketball's been cut in half and glued to the underside of the shoe. In addition, it has some sort of rocker action, the upshot of which is that when you stand normally, you actually have to balance your weight over the middle of the shoe. This led Chef Boy to ask, "Do they come with training wheels?" a reference to my fabled clumsiness. My sister remarked that that quip led her to consider Chef Boy her hero, and I said, "Shut up."

So you've put the things on and are balancing cheerfully in the middle of your foot. Or, alternatively, you've rocked back onto your heels so as to not have to waggle constantly to stand up. The first thing you notice when you start to walk is this: they're a very well-balanced shoe. As in, even *I* can't fall over in them. So snark away, Chef Boy and Beloved Sister, I'm doin' all right.

The second thing you notice is how heavy the damned things are. I don't know what sort of technology the engineers stuck into the oversized soles of these shoes, but it seems to be made of lead and gold. They're *heavy*.

That said, my heel hurts about the same after a day at work. But! On the morning after, it does not hurt *at all*, which means that I can pretty much walk to the bathroom rather than having to hobble and curse. Also, they do give my legs a good workout--not so much at work, since I'm used to walking around for twelve hours, but boy hidey! After a thirty-minute trot on the treadmill, I can feel muscles I only dimly remember from comparative anatomy class.

I can also run in them for several minutes at a stretch, having to stop only because my aerobic capacity is shit, not because my shins hurt. That is good. Very, very good.

And, strangely or not, the rocker-action of the shoe makes it easier to walk fast or trot than it does to walk slowly. That's nice, especially when you're trying to get as many miles in on the treadmill as you can. You have to walk with a shorter stride and in a more concentrated manner, or else your toes will brush the ground and you'll lose your rhythm. It's more like a forced march than a walk, but then, treadmilling is always more like a forced walk for me.

I'm sitting here contemplating the insertion points of my quadriceps--I can feel all of them, on both legs--after a thirty-six minute trot on the treadmill in the shoes. That's okay. My heel hurts a little, but not terribly, which is better than okay. And my bank account hurts a little more, but I'm dealing with that.

Bottom line: If you're happy with your Danskos, keep 'em. If, however, you spend the majority of the day wondering when the hell your heel will quit hurting, it's worth it to try a pair on to see if they work for you.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I suffer from plantar fasciitis as well. I've been to an orthopedic doctor twice and all he tells me is that I need to stretch my calf 7 times a day and that is the reason my heel and achille's hurt. I'd like to try these shoes. Can you give me an average price? There are two stores in my area that carry them. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Are yours like this?

They do cost a fair bit!

Anonymous said...

Where I work, we call them 'short-bus shoes', an obvious reference to the developmentally challenged.

Although everyone who wears them seems to love them, we all giggle at the thought of someone actually running in them.

I myself bought a pair of custom insoles at the same price of the MBT shoes, and I love them. I can put them in any pair of shoes, and they're supposed to last three years. They're very comfortable and I haven't had any pain at all while wearing them.

By the way, I enjoy your blog very much.

Anonymous said...

hey how much do these shoes cost? thanks!

Jo said...

I spent $245 on mine, free shipping, and that was about the average I found on the 'Net.

HypnoKitten said...

I've got plantar faciitis also. I know what you mean about limping when you wake up in the morning! I think I'll have to try these.

I am really happy with a pair of knock-off "crocs" ( I got at the drug store for use around the house. They are very foamy and cushioned. I liked my purple ones so much I got a set of black ones I sometimes wear to work. It's like walking on marshmallows. (I'd rather fix the problem though, so I'm going to look into these shoes you've got.)


Anonymous said...

I tied custom inserts, devices you wore to bed at night, heel exercises (a rolling plastic gizmo - even investigated radio waves (at $3000 for a non-guaranteed result) Then I started wearing MBT sneekers in Oct '05. Within two weeks I had no heel pain in the AM (getting out of bed) I have since purchased their sandals - which I love; sorry to have to switch back to a closed shoe now that winter's here.
Yes, they're costly and somewhat clunky but when your feet hurt, it sure makes for a long day. I have many other pairs of shoes which I never put on my feet now. If I'd saved that money, I'd be $ ahead.

Anonymous said...

For all those interested, has them for $89.99 right now.

Anonymous said...

My problem is with the pads of my feet (between the toe and arch). Does anyone know what will help?

Joshilyn Jackson said...

I found discontinued MBT styles on Ebay for 99 bucks. WOW they are AMAZING. Walked 3 days all over the many Disneyworlds and my feet never hurt.