Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
4 Nov

The Inherent Absurdity of Barefoot Technology

Vibram, Vivo Barefoot, Softstar, and the other shoe companies making an honest attempt at creating a viable shoe alternative aren’t the only entities capitalizing off the nascent barefoot trend sweeping the nation (and I’m not referring to podiatrists, as much as they like to claim barefoot running will create thousands of new patients). Several shoemakers have taken the barefoot ball and run the opposite direction – down the path of more shoe and more meddling into how the foot works – claiming to have improved upon the near-perfection of the naked human foot with (get this) bulky odd-looking shoes that weigh more than traditional running shoes.

Foremost is MBT, or Masai Barefoot Technology. MBT makes the “anti-shoe,” which is actually an unsteady, unstable shoe with a squishy, conspicuous “rocker” sole. The sole appears to be about 2 or 3 inches thick, and the instability is actually a feature. Yes, the most popular backed-by-internally-funded-science example of barefoot technology is a shoe that forces its wearers to teeter around. Sure, you gain a few inches, but at what cost? Without having tried them (and I honestly don’t plan to), the very notion of simulating barefoot walking by wearing big clunky shoes perplexes and confuses me. Talk about digging a hole to put the ladder in to wash the basement windows! Same goes for MBT’s claim of “natural instability” being the key to “recreating the barefoot experience.” Just what is so natural about being unsteady on your feet? I always figured feet were there to anchor us to the floor and provide stability. In fact, it’s that haptic perception (actually feeling the ground) in our bare feet that gives the brain the signals it needs to distribute shock effectively – tossed out the window now with MBT.

Then there are Skechers Shape-Ups, which are pretty similar to the MBTs: “rocker” sole, big wedge of material under the heel to “promote natural walking,” deliberate instability. They tighten abs, firm butts, and destroy cellulite. Armed with the Skechers Shape-Ups, folks can “get fit without stepping in a gym.” I’ll agree that a gym isn’t necessary for fitness, but strapping on a pair of magic non-shoes and standing there, or walking around the mall hoping for artificial instability to kick in won’t do it.

Bosu ball addicts have successfully integrated balls into many facets of everyday life. At the gym, they do squats, deadlifts, and bicep curls while balancing precariously on bosu balls; at the office, they sit on large balance balls instead of chairs; at night, they wrap their bodies around massive rubber spheres instead of beds. Locomotion was their white whale, though. They tried attaching handles to balance balls for easy bouncing to and fro, but they looked a bit too much like female bonobos in estrus (go ahead and Google that). Well, Reebok’s new(ish) EasyTone line of shoes slays the whale. They’ve actually installed three miniature balance balls into the sole of each shoe (I’m not making this up), allowing wearers to recreate the natural, evolutionary sensation of walking on inflated rubber balls.

This revolutionary barefoot technology, according to its hawkers, compels the wearer to move. Walking and exercising become almost passive acts; the shoes apparently propel you down the street. All you’ve gotta do is be carried away on a couple of foot clouds. Heck, even standing at rest in these babies is a constant, imperceptibly effective workout for your entire body. Who needs to consciously work out anymore?

Maybe the absurdity of barefoot technology isn’t evident to everyone, though. Condemning a non-shoe that’s actually a shoe for claiming to recreate the barefoot experience seems “reasonable”, but it’s always good to back arguments up with empirical data. And all the barefoot tech peddlers claim to have research supporting their products, so it’s only fair that we on the “nay” side also use research.

The American Council on Exercise, a non-profit fitness certification organization, recently put the claims of MBT, Skechers, and Reebok to the test and released the results (PDF) to the public. It should be noted that though the ACE is a non-profit, their continued existence depends on the certification of trainers that would be out of a job if the shoemakers’ “get fit without trying” claims were true, so I can see where some hackles about bias could be raised. Regardless, let’s check out their findings.

ACE conducted two studies. The first subjected 12 active women to twelve 5-minute treadmill trials at varying intensities while wearing different shoes (MBTs, Skechers Shape-Ups, EasyTones, New Balance runners). Each woman tried each shoe three times: a 5-minute, 3 MPH walk at 0% grade; a 5-minute, 3.5 MPH walk at 0% grade; and a 5-minute, 3.5 MPH walk at 5% grade. Oxygen consumption, heart rate, perceived exertion rating (RPE), and caloric expenditure were all monitored.

While all values increased across the board in response to increased work intensity, no significant differences were found in response to the different shoes. They all performed about equally.

The second study had a similar initial set-up – 12 active women, the same four shoe choices, the same 12 treadmill trials at the same intensities – but a different focus. Instead of measuring exercise output, this study examined specific muscular responses. Electrodes were hooked up to measure EMG activity in the gastrocnemius (or calf muscle), the rectus femoris (quadriceps muscle), the biceps femoris, the gluteus maxiumus, the erector spinae (back muscles), and the rectus abdominus (abs). An initial test was run to determine the EMG in response to a maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC); the study would use EMG recordings from the treadmill trials and compare them to the MVIC EMG.

There was no significant difference in muscle EMG activity across different shoe types. EMG activity increased in response to the increasing intensity of the treadmill trials, as is to be expected. ACE’s ultimate conclusion follows thusly: “There is simply no evidence to support the claims that these shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone.”

The shoe companies counter with their own internally-funded studies. Here are Skechers’, Reebok’s, and MBT’s research.

All parties obviously set out to prove their point. ACE may have a dog in the fight, however convoluted it might be, and they ran a fairly limited study (small sample size, short duration), while the shoe companies have the obvious objective to sell more shoes and justify it by funding their own research. I’m immediately skeptical of industry-funded research that also happens to support the industry’s product, but that’s completely natural.

My take? I just find it all absurd, to be honest; a battle over which is the lesser of two evils. It’s like those studies purporting to show the benefits of “healthy” whole grains by pitting them against refined, processed grains. Or the study that showed ankle taping provides better ankle stability in people who wear athletic footwear, while completely glossing over the fact that athletes wearing no shoes and no tape performed best and evinced the highest level of foot position awareness (the key determinant in susceptibility to ankle sprains). Neither choice is optimal.

The standard running shoe (New Balance) performed similarly to the fancy barefoot tech. What can we glean from this? What does this say about the necessity of any footwear, let alone barefoot technology? You’ve got two bare feet at your disposal, and I think people should begin learning how to use them before giving up and relying on “barefoot technology” to save them.

Have you tried MBTs or copy cat barefoot/toning shoes? Share your thoughts in the comment board. Grok on!

Photo Credit: MBT

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I have tried the Reetones, and don’t like them. Admittedly they do seem seem to activate greater muscle/energy use in some way – walking just seems more challenging, not unstable at all, more like walking on wet sand, simply harder work which I guess is their selling point. But they feel clunky and not particularly comfortable, and I don’t like the restrictive feeling – it tires me out rather than giving me more spring in my step. I don’t know how the hell anyone could wear them all day long!

    Sigi wrote on November 4th, 2010
    • But then again, I know several people who absolutely love them and swear by them. Horses for courses. Just not my thing.

      Sigi wrote on November 4th, 2010
  2. I spoke with an 80+yearold gentleman with a history of falls at the gym where I work who was wearing a pair of the Sketchers approved by his therapist. The poor man had to lean on the wall in order to stand while we spoke. Have the majority lost their good sense?

    John Marschke wrote on November 4th, 2010
  3. What happened to the regular moccasins you used to be able to get (usually marketed as slippers), the ones made out of a single piece of sheepskin with a separate piece of leather for the tongue? All the SLIPPERS I see in the stores nowadays have rubber soles, and they’re supposed to be for wearing indoors! My grandfather and I had pairs of the plain soleless ones when I was little, but I haven’t been able to find them since.

    Erin wrote on November 4th, 2010
    • Try L. L. Bean: http://www.llbean.com/

      and Orvis: http://www.orvis.com

      For that matter, Zappos and Amazon.

      Henry Barth wrote on November 4th, 2010
    • Search the web for “softsole moccasins”. Minnetonka manufactures quite a few styles, but you can also find a good many better quality ones from independent shoemakers’ websites.

      Cullen D. wrote on November 4th, 2010
  4. I did not have the time to read all of these great comments – NOR – read & digested your post completely.

    But with that said, I used to run 3-milers in bare feet when I was a 15-year old.

    Man! I used to run so fast w/o shoes!!

    Whoopie!!!

    If you can – go for it in bare feet!!! I do EVERY time I have the opp!!

    Grok on!!!!!!!

    Iluvatar wrote on November 4th, 2010
  5. My wife bought a pair of the easytones, despite my best efforts to dissuade her. The fat salesgirl who recommended them would obviously know better than her personal trainer husband.

    Myself, I do all my running barefoot now and use Chucks for most day-to-day stuff.

    Clint wrote on November 4th, 2010
  6. Great post! I cannot believe how absurd some of these “new and improved” shoes are. I have been a bit of a klutz all my life, and buying my first pair of V-Fives was the best thing I ever did. Suddenly I was light on my feet and walked and ran with ease! Now, when I have to wear “regular” shoes (such as for winter, as I live in CO), I find myself tripping all over the place. Not fun!

    And all the people I have seen wearing those silly Skechers Shape-Ups have been overweight, and obviously out of shape, so I wasn’t sold on the ‘quick fitness without exercise’ bit.

    Dawn wrote on November 4th, 2010
  7. This is so dumb. It’s the same logic behind all the informercials touting “new and improved, effortlessly simple solutions” that actually end up being five degrees removed from the simplicity they’re trying to emulate. Anyone remember The Hawaii Chair (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9_amg-Aos4)? That sh*t was WACK.

    I think the difference between the obviously silly concept of the Hawaii Chair and something like “barefoot toning shoes” is that, as you said, it sounds like some kind of technological breakthrough. People who want fitness without effort will say, “Hey, this takes an asset I already have – feet – and allows me to utilize that asset to lose weight! Holy Moly, what an idea!”

    There are always going to be people out there who embrace the latest iteration of snake oil, and this fad, like others, will hopefully fade soon enough. In the meantime, Sketchers and MBT (does it bother anyone else that they’re referencing a group of African tribesmen who wouldn’t be caught dead in shoes like these?) are going to make a lot of money off of people who very likely will not get very fit — that is, unless they chuck their gigantic shoes in the trash and go barefoot.

    alhaddadin wrote on November 4th, 2010
  8. no vibrams..no minimal sho..i have been running totally barefoot for 6 months…all my injuries healed..i even do my sprints on grass and can run on rock terrain with a heavy backpack..it is even easier than with the shoes..go barefoottt:)

    salim wrote on November 4th, 2010
  9. Just thought I’d share this RL True story for people who love their shoes,

    One of the best jobs I ever had was packing parachutes, at a commercial drop zone.
    Now, you want to talk about a full-body workout,… lol.
    We were mostly packing the tandem chutes (designed to bring down two people) and this involved a lot of jumping up onto and off of

    the packing table – a long carpet-covered platform – to get these great beasts folded, smushed, & packed in a tiny bag, just the right

    way. You have to work barefoot – any shoe might damage the parachute; they tell me this is a bad thing.

    Our tables were set on gravel; the hangar, about 50 yards away, was connected by a path of 2″-3″ rounded river rocks.
    When I started, just walking barefoot, unencumbered, out to the hangar was torture.

    In a week or two after starting, hefting 3 or 4 packed tandems (they weigh about 45 lbs each) and taking them out to the hangar,

    barefoot, over those river rocks, was no big deal. Given the chance, feet are as smart, and tougher than, hands. They have to be.
    Right?

    Daniel wrote on November 4th, 2010
  10. I have 4 pairs of Vibrams. KSO, KSO trek, sprint and the Biklia. they are all I wear. I wear the Treks for anything that needs a professional appeal as the Kangaroo leather top gives it that better look. I recently wore the Treks while climbing Mt Shasta in june and more recently Mt Hood 3 weeks ago. I was on snow, ice axe in hand about 50% of the time. They did great! (although….my 2nd and 3rd toe on my left foot took about a week to get full feeling back :p).
    I have gone from walking flat footed all my life to having an arch now. My stability has increased, I run way better and overall I’m very satisfied. (took awhile to stop stubbing my right pinkie toe though :p)

    Kelsey wrote on November 4th, 2010
    • please excuse the grammatical errors. Its late :D

      Kelsey wrote on November 4th, 2010
  11. I have a pair of the masai-shoes and haven’t used them a lot because I’m afraid of falling og twisting my ankle, which I am wont to do.
    But still: Whenever I wear them, I definitely use another set of muscles and especially use more core muscles to balance myself and keep upright. To keep your balance in the masai shoes, you have to walk and stand very straight, so it IS a kind of training tool.

    Ulla Lauridsen wrote on November 5th, 2010
  12. My thoughts exactly with this post. I am a physical therapist, and I see more foot problems that are “cured” with orthotics, etc…..and now I’m seeing referrals from doctors to fit people with MBT’s?? I have to bite my tongue on this issue, as to not scare people off. I have been sliding barefoot exercises into my treatments, and people get better rather quickly. Go figure. I am so disgusted with this new shoe rave that’s swept the general public with all of this “scientific evidence.” I’ve yet to see a convincing article! For now, when patients ask about these shoes, I’m using this post as my new reference for them to read. Thanks Mark!

    DPT2008 wrote on November 5th, 2010
  13. It would seem to me from reading these threads that MBT type shoes may have a place in the world and that is in the podiatrist’s office and NOT the gym. They may help some people with foot abnormalities relieve pain, but to use a shoe as a substitute for exercise is ridiculous. I can also see how wearing them for walking vice running would make a significant difference in their usefulness. The biomechanics of a run and a walk are just that different. So IMHO, buy the NOATS, MBTs, DANSKO’s that look like street shoes and use them for that – not deadlifting, Fran, or a 5K.

    I sit here writing this after having surgery 6 weeks ago to reattach some ligaments and rebraid my pereonous longus and brevis tendons. So I am rocking along with a “walking boot” for the next 4-6 weeks. You can imagine my angst about shoes.

    Christine wrote on November 5th, 2010
  14. My ‘wellness officer’ at work has a serious foot problem, she’s been limping for months. While walking together the other day, she told me she was wearing her son’s (oversized for her) 8 year old running shoes. “I can’t believe how long they last! He wore these in high school!”

    I train TKD twice a week, and workout at home barefoot. Nothing feels more natural, and it feels so good to ditch my shoes after a long day at the office!

    kevin wrote on November 5th, 2010
  15. I tried Nike Free first, then Vibrams, and now I just run barefoot on the streets. I don’t ever want to run in shoes again and I workout at home barefoot too. After working thru some near stress fractures in my metatarsals when I first started running in Vibrams, I feel like my feet, ankles and lower legs have become exponentionally stronger since going barefoot almost a year ago. I won’t even wear shoes with big soles now. I look for flexible shoes with short, flat soles to wear to work or wherever.

    Hunter P wrote on November 5th, 2010
  16. There are another couple of considerations for the MBT shoes, that being the matters of misrepresentation and cultural theft. Those shoes have nothing to so with the traditional footwear of the Maasai people. Maasai sandals do not cause them to walk in any manner like the MBT shoes force on a person.

    Also, in searching the MBT website, I find nothing demonstrating that the MBT company has the permission of the Maasai people nor have they compensated them in any way for using their name or reputation. (though that may have changed since the last time I looked, I hope so)

    If anyone is interested, I did a review of the MBT from the point of view of how the Maasai actually move that can be found here.
    http://tracelesswarrior.blogspot.com/2009/10/answer-on-mbt-barefoot-shoe.html

    M wrote on November 5th, 2010
  17. As someone who spends most days on my feet the Skecher’s shape ups have made a big difference in the amount of pain I suffer. My feet, knees and lower back used to swell and throb by the end of each day and no longer do thanks to the shoes. I believe this is due to the strengthening of the core muscles which is a result of the constant contracting of the various muscles needed to stabilize and the unique cushioning has reduced the impact of the hard surfaces. I work with many nurses who wear them and love them as well. We are not allowed to work barefoot :)

    Keeley wrote on November 5th, 2010
  18. Sadly, this seems more like a disdainful attempt to prop up the primal lifestyle. How is this any more absurd than “primal” protein shakes? The same could be said for the absurdity of any Neolithic technology.

    Unfortunately, I feel this is one of the few blog posts that I have found to be absolutely uninformative and detrimental to the advancement of the PB lifestyle. It is bad enough that the forum members pile on anyone who questions the primal lifestyle (especially vegans), but now, if one doesn’t wear sufficiently primal shoes, they too will be attacked. Sad sad sad.

    Write about the healthy virtues of moving with bare feet as you have done so well in the past — that would be informative (so much so that I now wear Vivo’s and feel so much better too). Otherwise, why stop with just deriding a specific marketing niche of the shoe industry? Why not go after planes, trains, and automobiles — and bikes too for that matter? Are they not anti-primal enough?

    The primal blueprint is a great “blueprint” to follow and support. Don’t ruin it by turning it into a bigoted cult Mark.

    Asturian wrote on November 5th, 2010
    • Sorry my opinion and analysis on this didn’t meet your standards, Asturian. I’ll try to do a better job next time.

      Mark Sisson wrote on November 5th, 2010
      • My standards for opinion and analysis are not really all that high Mark. And I have equal standards for your opinion and analysis as I do for those of vegans who prefer to eat bananas.

        I would rather you try to do a better job of revising the censorship policy standards of your forum.

        With all due respect,

        Asturian

        Asturian wrote on November 5th, 2010
  19. Despite the fact that I am a great admirer of Mr. Sisson’s philosophy and great advice, I must mention that the suggestion in this blog may not be the smartest for those of us who are diabetic. Diabetic feet are extremely sensitive to pressure and trauma and will take forever to heal, even with minimal injuries. Diabetics, PLEASE do not run around barefoot. Take it from me, a diabetic retired orthopedic surgeon (yes, the guy who does the amputations of the diabetic limbs).
    Respectfully,
    T J Huber

    T J Huber wrote on November 5th, 2010
  20. @fitmom: That’s how I felt too with my KSO’s. Just wanted to run, and I did!

    @salim: I am slowly working up my distance going barefoot. It’s awesome!

    @DPT2008: That is awesome. I love reading about doctors that investigate and teach alternative medicines.

    @Hunter P: I try to everything barefoot at home. Working out in my home gym, running barefoot outside, etc.

    @M: I looked into that myself. It didn’t make any sense to me. I couldn’t find the correlation.

    @JohnC and others: you guys make me want to buy some chucks again. I had 2 pair during high school.

    @T J Huber: So there is absolutely no reason why a diabetic should be barefoot at all? Why do other drs say it’s ok? Just curious because my mom is diabetic and walks barefoot at home.

    @Armaan: I think my form is ok, but I know it could be better.

    Melyssa wrote on November 5th, 2010
    • Not all diabetics have the same degree of nerve damage (i.e: numbness) in their feet. If a diabetic has good sensation in the soles, I don’t think there is a problem. In my case, my wife has taken thorns and wire pieces out of my feet that I didn’t even know were there. I’ve given up being barefoot completely, the risk is just too high for me.

      T J Huber wrote on November 5th, 2010
  21. Here is a great reference I coincidentally just found on OPT’s blog.

    http://optimumperformancetraining.blogspot.com/2010/10/fri-oct-29-2010.html

    Turns out lifting weights on balance balls decreases total force produced as well. Compared to lifting on solid floor, instability not matching up.

    Drjdavis wrote on November 5th, 2010
  22. Asturian, I don’t see why this doesn’t ‘fit’. Anything that supposedly improves the human form or condition deserves scrutiny doesn’t it?

    I agree with the gist of this post, although for me it’s Nike Free’s that have the most to answer for. At least MBTs aren’t emulating barefoot (I don’t think). Nike Free’s have taken a simple concept – barefoot works best – and then
    made the sole so padded you couldn’t feel the ground if it was shaking beneath you. Evos rule (for those that don’t fancy gorilla feet of Vibrams).

    Mike - Fat Fiction wrote on November 5th, 2010
    • All I meant to say is that Mark should focus on the “positives” of the primal lifestyle philosophy rather than on the negatives of Neolithic technologies. There is no need to put down the Neolithic age in order to prop up the primal lifestyle; it stands up well on its own. We live in a Neolithic age. There is no practical way of changing that short of stripping nude and running off to some uninhabited island — and even then, there is no guarantee that Neolithic technology will not find you there.

      I have great respect and admiration for Mark and his talent for explaining the seemingly obvious yet elusive path to the optimal genetic expression of our species. Before finding my way to MDA, I had already collected all the pieces of this puzzle but it was Mark’s talented words that helped me put the picture together and for that I am most grateful.

      Mark could have easily made his final point for this blog post, of walking the way our evolutionary blueprint intended us to walk, by focusing more on the morphologic design of the foot and how it connects the body/brain interactive response to the external environment. Most of us don’t live on a deserted island and consequently, some of us have to wear shoes. He could have then perhaps referenced how “ALL” shoes interfere with our interactive response to the environment and that some shoes are worse than others (or more positively, that some shoes are better than others).

      To spend 95% of his text on bashing MBTs/copy cat shoes was misdirected effort that may only serve to initiate more cult like extremism by some members of his forum against those who have minimal to no significant harmful side effects from certain Neolithic technologies.

      Asturian wrote on November 5th, 2010
      • Asturian you need to chill out on Mark or… channel you energy into writing a book, directing a movie or become a film critic.

        If that doesn’t float your boat, go to godaddy.com and register the following url: asturiansdailyapple.com

        Brian wrote on November 7th, 2010
        • Seeing as how Mark has mysteriously removed my ability to “reply” directly to his last post, perhaps I should assume that you are the chosen disciple to take up his position to elaborate extensively?

          Then elaborate on this extent Brian; when spam or troll behavior is manifest within a forum thread, are each and every member who post to the said thread then defined as spammers and/or trolls? That is my current understanding for what constitutes spam/troll behavior on the MDA forum since the entire thread and ALL of the posts are removed, just as if nothing had ever occurred, with no PB member able to decide for themselves whether said troll or spammer had a legitimate debate challenge to the underlying primal philosophy, or clearly a trouble maker, or just clowning around. I suppose this method of handling such behavior works well to stifle challenging debates regarding the primal philosophy, except that, the primal philosophy doesn’t need such protectionism IMO. Cults however do need to protect their mysteriousness or “knowledge of the hidden”.

          Anyway, I won’t bother your worship further as I need to get back to work on my latest book, “Primal Occults of the Neolithic”. That is if I am to have a film to critique for the movie I plan to direct (based on that previously mentioned book). Oh and Brian, thanks so much for your daddy’s float-a-boat link. I may need it for a quick escape when I get kicked off the MDA primal island for saying what I think as opposed to what others may want me to think or chill or whatever.

          Grok on! (without MBT’s of course)

          Asturian wrote on November 9th, 2010
        • Sorry, my bad. It appears that the “reply” link disappears after the thrid reply to a comment.

          Appologies for my ignorance on these rules.

          Asturian wrote on November 9th, 2010
      • Asturian,

        Sorry for taking so long to repIy, you know, working and such. I doubt you’ll accept this but there’s no conspiracy here against you. You’re a good writer. Make the most of it.

        Brian wrote on November 11th, 2010
  23. Water socks, baby! $20, better than VFFs in my mind.

    wd wrote on November 5th, 2010
  24. @T J Huber: That makes sense. Was not aware of that. Thanks for clarifying.

    Melyssa wrote on November 5th, 2010
  25. one person said she liked her soft star shoes–anyone else have them and like or dislike them? I am thinking about ordering a pair of the ramblers for winter as they are sheepskin and natural leather. so figure they will keep my cold feet warm and yet be minimal. I too thought these rocker types of shoes were absurd when I first saw them–how many people are going to have serious falls from wearing these shoes?

    Debrah wrote on November 5th, 2010
    • I like my Soft Star Run Amoks…GREAT summer shoes and I’ll definitely be ordering some ramblers for the colder months we’re moving in to. I’m just trying to decide on colors.

      p.s. I’ve never fallen in my MBTs.

      kennelmom wrote on November 6th, 2010
  26. Another nurse voting YES for the Sketchers Shape Ups. Back pain eliminated, even with 12 hr shifts on hard floors, on my feet the whole time.
    I haven’t needed Ibuprofen at work or after work since switching 1 1/2 yrs ago.

    And I developed plantar fascitiis this summer running barefoot. Even though I started slowly and built up. And used the proper form. Currently working with a sports medicine expert about what direction to take with conditioning at this point. I knew my feet were hurting every morning, I just didn’t know it had a name until recently.

    CNYmicaa wrote on November 5th, 2010
  27. Asturian, fair points, indeed. And attacking things Neolithic seems counterproductive, even when promoting PB. But I think Mark has a point here – when Neolithic is claiming to be more primal or natural but is mostly doing the opposite. In such a case, I believe it’s not only permissible but even appropriate for Mark or any PB proponent to address the issue directly, even if only to spark further thought or discussion.

    66jzmstr wrote on November 5th, 2010
  28. Props to Mark for writing this. I had never been able to run more than 20 or 30 minutes without my herniated discs or shot knees acting up, then sidelining me for at least a week. Since going barefoot/minimalist, I’ve been on runs of 60 and 70 minutes, with no pain the next day. And equally important – running is fun again! It’s not an exercise in grimacing pain, slogging through lumbering strides. I actually don’t mind the odd looks from neighbors as I run up and down our streets and sidewalks barefoot or in Luna sandals. I’ve had a few minor TMTS injuries since beginning from my over-eagerness and not transitioning cautiously enough, but never any injuries that sidelined me like those mentioned above.

    I’m happy to see Mark write this, even if it’s an unpopular viewpoint among many.

    66jzmstr wrote on November 5th, 2010
  29. I haven’t read through all the comments but I have both MBTs and VFFs and SoftStar Run Amoks. I like the all.

    I get much more wear out of my minimalist shoes, but I enjoy wearing my MBTs. They’re fun. We live in fairly hilly terrain and they add a little extra oomph when I walk the dogs. Not super scientific, but per my HRM, they make me work a little harder walking the route in the same pace. Plus, I actually like how they look. But, I like weird/ugly shoes…Hence my affinity for the VFFs as well :P

    If I could only keep one pair in my closet, the VFFs win hands down b/c I can wear them to pretty much do anything. The MBTs are just my dog walking and/or long days at the mall/costo/running errands shoes. My bad knee definitely appreciates the MBTs if I’m going to spend a lot of time walking on concrete. Just my n=1 experience!

    Are MBTs primal? Heck no. Will they whip you in to shape? Heck no. They are what they are and I enjoy mine when I wear them. That’s all that matters (to me).

    kennelmom wrote on November 6th, 2010
  30. I absolutely hate those ridiculously stupid, ugly shoes.

    Sheryl Blystone wrote on November 6th, 2010
    • wow. that was helpful and really contributed to the conversation

      kennelmom wrote on November 6th, 2010
  31. As much as I can see how fellow primals would find the concept of the MBT’s ridiculous (and the marketing is) I have to say that for me they just plain worked. After wearing them for two weeks on half hour walks, I completely relearned and regained my natural gait in “normal” shoes. I’d extend my hamstring and engage my glutes–something my neuromusculature had completely forgotten. I haven’t worn MBT’s in years but have not since lost that gait.
    I could see how wearing these sneakers for a short test would show no change in EMG readings because the brain has to be rewired to engage those muscles and that takes some time–at least it did in my case. Incidentally, I wouldn’t wear these shoes around doing daily chores, work etc, because you’re not supposed to break the sole, and I think there’d be some risk of injury in making constant turns and quick short movements.

    So with the caveats above, I would actually recommend MBT’s wholeheartedly.

    Mike wrote on November 8th, 2010
  32. I had to convince a couple in DSW not to buy those ‘shoes’ with a very simple argument… “They look stupid, no one will ever take you seriously again.”
    I was wearing my Vibram Sprints.
    Imagine the conversation convincing “normal” people that Vibrams were not only better looking, but better for you than commercially over-exposed Sketchers LMAO! I then directed them towards CitySports.
    Then I wondered, “Why am I in DSW again?”

    Gregory wrote on November 8th, 2010
  33. Just a comment from someone who suffers periodically from plantar fasciitis. I realize part of the reasoning in going barefoot is that’s how we always used to be and you can’t improve on the human foot, etc. HOWEVER, there is one thing I never see people address: Before civilization, we always walked and ran on uneven surfaces. The human foot has evolved for uneven surfaces. But in modern society, we almost always walk on hard, even surfaces. When you’re young, perhaps going barefoot works and it won’t bother you. But as we age, perhaps the flatness of our floors puts a strain on the arch of the foot. Perhaps an uneven floor aids the health of the foot, but now we have floors that are inimical, which is why people try different shaped shoes and inserts.

    Mark Sanders wrote on November 8th, 2010
  34. I like MBT,I have some shoes like that.

    MBT wrote on November 8th, 2010
  35. Sketchers and other huge soled shoes always rubbed me the wrong way just to look at them. I always felt that we were beyond the whole Frankenstein look and feel to footwear… But seeing this has proved me wrong.

    I was a kid who NEVER went out of the house without shoes on, now I’m the parent who tells their kids to take the shoes OFF before they go outside to play.

    Shawn wrote on November 9th, 2010
  36. Hi. Just my pennysworth: i think MBT’s look ugly, but when I saw a pair on ebay for £30 in my size, I thought I would give ‘em a try. I have some fivefinger KSO’s which are my fave workout shoes (when I am not barefoot) but I need “proper shoes” for work – and after a week on MBT’s I have been sold on how really comfy they are. Did a 4 hour walk around London with my wife recently, and had a serious sensation of deep delayed-onset muscle stiffness in the deep stabilizer muscles of both calves – definitely got a workout there! I have good balance, do one-legged pistols for fun and to tease my teenage sons (who can’t do ‘em) – but the MBT’s definitely gave my calves a fresh workout. If I worked on a beach, or could spend my time on sand or soft grass, my preferred footwear would be slipslops or nothing; as it is, I think the MBT’s are worth a go if you can find a pair on the cheap. They retail for £195 here in the UK (insane), but are probably worth about £65 in terms of build quality and comfort. I have found them much more comfy than my beloved Clarks, which was a real surprise.

    Try them for a week, Mark. you might be surprised too!

    Bill

    bill wrote on November 10th, 2010
  37. Yo….

    Once you use Kelso Neg. heel (3.7 degrees ) EARTH SHOES you will be a fan.

    Ebay sells them in your size ( new and used ). The idea behind them is solid. It’s like walking barefoot in wet sand at the beach…..your foot-ball is down 3.7 degrees deeper in the wet sand than the rest of your foot……very easy on your posture and sooooo easy on your back.

    JImmy Dee wrote on November 10th, 2010
  38. Hi everyone,
    I actually have a pair of MBTs which I bought few years ago. I think that I understand the confusion here. These shoes were designed to mimic more natural surface then the concrete. It is true that walking in these shoes initially you feel like walking on a sand (the dry one not wet one) and there seems to be more effort and more muscle groups taking part in this balancing act. After few days you are getting used to it – and I honestly do not think it does anything special to you. On the bad side – these shoes are making your feet completely immobile in them and I think that a prolonged use (I used to wear them often for a year and a half) contribute to feet problems. I was getting horrible cramps in my feet. I took some tests but it was non conclusive. I stopped wearing them because when I felt theat the cram is coming I had to take them of quickly – Yo would not like to experience a cramp in a shoe in which you cannot move your foot – horrible. The only remedy I seemed to figure out was when I felt the cramp coming was to start intensive isometric exercise on big leg muscles. It was improving circulation. In a way by concidence I had to esign form MBTs and I was waking at home bare foot. After few months my cramps went away. I have this feeling that MBTs may be good for your hips and tights and maybe calfs but not so much for your feet. At least I think that this is my casa.

    Magda wrote on November 10th, 2010
  39. I wear the Sketchers because I have severe arthritis in my back, lower spine, knees, and feet. In addition, I am woefully out of shape and overweight. What I can say is that since I started wearing these shoes (at $100/pair) I can now walk and my feet and knees don’t ache like they did. I am more mobile, and I figure some movement is better than no movement. My husband and I are in our early 50s and are embarking on a major lifestyle change in relocating to a new state and are at the same time, trying the Primal lifestyle. What can you do with so many strikes against you to start with, Mark? The shoes got me walking and with little to no pain, which means no meds. And that seemed a positive “step” in the right direction. What else is there for those like us?

    Jan Kaiser wrote on November 10th, 2010
  40. Masai? Haha, the Masai people wear sandals made from old tires.

    Milly wrote on November 11th, 2010

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