Foot Notes Blog


April 2011

What are the benefits and risks of wearing MBT™ footwear?

Apr 25, 2011 8:46 PM
Peter Guy

In this blog, I will discuss the benefits and risks of wearing MBT™ footwear if you have a specific foot and lower leg problem. To help answer this question, I have summarized feedback from various chiropodists and podiatrists from Canada and the USA gathered by Dr. Chris MacLean, Director of Biomechanics at Paris Orthotics Ltd in Vancouver, BC.
Some of the benefits of wearing MBT shoes are definitely due to the rocker shaped outer sole. A pilot study in 2005 by Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary used pressure sensing insoles inside of MBT footwear while the study participants were either standing or walking. They compared the pressure readings in the MBT™ shoes to pressure readings inside of a flat soled running shoe. The study specifically compared the peak pressures of the heel, midfoot, ball of the foot (forefoot) and toes between the two shoe groups.
Results of this study showed:
  1. MBT’s decreased peak pressures in the forefoot and midfoot when walking,
  2. MBT’s decreased peak pressures and in the midfoot and heel when standing,
  3. Peak pressure was raised in the toes in MBT’s in both standing and walking conditions,
  4. The most dramatic difference was during standing, where the MBT shoes increased peak pressure in the toes by 76%, and lowered peak pressure in the midfoot and heels by 21% and 11% respectively and
  5. The most consistent finding, when both standing and walking, was decreased pressures in the midfoot in MBT’s.

These results of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary study are consistent with the feedback that Chris MacLean gathered on the benefits of wearing MBT footwear.
What foot problems can benefit from MBT footwear?
  1. 1. Stiffness in the big to joint(hallux limitus),
  2. Bunions,
  3. Heel pain or plantar fasciitis,
  4. Pain in the forefoot( metatarsalagia),
  5. Decreasing weight away from the ball of the foot,
  6. Painful callus on the ball of the foot,
  7. Inflammation of the joint capsule in the forefoot,
  8. Neuroma ( irritation of nerves between the metatarsal bones of the foot),
  9. Foot osteoarthritis and
  10. Someone who mostly stands while they work.

In my last blog, I discussed the effects of wearing MBT footwear. I have summarized these effects.
  1. Wearing MBT shoes increased the activity of many of the lower leg and thigh muscles while subjects stood or walked wearing MBT shoes,
  2. Wearing MBT shoes is similar to balancing on a wobble board. Wobble boards are used for rehab after an ankle sprain which helps to strengthen muscles around an injured ankle joint and promote balance. Postural sway increased while wearing MBT shoes and
  3. Wearing MBT a shoes while walking caused an increase in ankle joint dorsiflexion (dorsiflexion of the ankle happens when you move your foot towards your leg) from initial heel contact through to midstance (midstance is the time when your swinging leg is even to your weight bearing foot and leg). Increased ankle dorsiflexion at contact to midstance makes your calf muscle stretch more while walking as compared to subjects wearing the New Balance shoe. If you have tight calf muscles the use of MBT footwear may cause strain on the tendo Achilles resulting in tendinitis.

If you are considering MBT footwear you probably should have good balance, good muscle flexibility and an intact nervous system.
These are problems that are considered too risky to use MBT footwear

  1. Achilles tendinitis or peroneal tendinitis(these tendons are found on the outside of the foot and are damaged during ankle sprain)
  2. Poor balance
  3.  History of ankle sprains
  4. Loss of nerve transmission to the lower extremities such as diabetic neuropathy
  5. Neurological deficits such as multiple sclerosis
  6. Stress fractures especially while standing
  7. Knee problems

Before you consider buying a pair of “Toning or Physiological shoes you should be aware of the risks and benefits of wearing these types of shoes. Most if not all of the research has been conducted using MBT footwear, therefore, the MBT footwear benefit and risk profile may not apply to the other “Toning and Physiological” brands of footwear.
In my next blog entry I will discuss the topic of minimalist running shoes used for barefoot running.



Become a Fan on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter