Rocker Shoe Put to the Test

Rocker Shoe

MBT Shoe

Patients have been asking me about the new rocker bottom shoes.  So I wanted to learn more about them myself.

MBTis the original brand using the rocker bottom design.   That stands for “Masai Barefoot Technology” – the concept is that the shoe mimics the pattern of gait that Masai people utilize in walking on sand.

The MBT technology is deliberately designed to create an “unstable” pattern of standing or walking.  That means that, instead of rigidly “locking” into vertical stance when wearing normal shoes, you have to actively engage your muscles (and your balance and coordination mechanisms) while wearing the MBT shoes.

MBT makes some significant claims about their shoes – that your posture will improve, you’ll activate underutilized muscles, reduce stress on your joints, and burn more energy just in everyday walking.  And their website lists a few relevant scientific studies that document at least some of these claims.

But before I could recommend them to my patients, I wanted to feel the effects for myself.  So I wandered into my local “The Walking Company” store to check them out.

They’re definitely different.  As soon as I put them on I instantly stood and walked differently (and probably in a more physiological ideal way.)   When standing, my weight was shifted forward, since I was unable to rock my weight back onto my heels (there were no heels!)  That meant my alignment was better, and I almost automatically engaged my abdominal muscles in a healthful way.

I expected that the MBT shoes wouldn’t allow for normal foot movement – that the rocker action would in effect substitute for the physiological motion of the joints of the foot.  In fact, the effect was the exact opposite of what I expected.  When I began to walk, I enjoyed the way my feet naturally and fully flowed through a normal gait cycle.

I liked them.  Next, I’ll have to try them out in a real world situation – standing in them all day, or walking for 3 – 4 miles.  But I liked them.

They’re expensive, at least for my budget.  But there are less expensive knock-offs.  Skechers Shape-Ups is one variation.  Of course, at The Walking Company the salesclerk insisted that the patented technology in the MBT shoe was much more effective.  I can’t say if that’s true or not.

But I have confidence I can recommend them to patients – those with hip, knee, or low back problems, or anyone who has to stand and walk a large part of the day.

Has anybody else had good results with the MBT’s or their rival brands?


About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods. His website,, provides more information about his approach. Please contact him at or at 212-400-9663.
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