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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