Karl Muller, a Swiss engineer, noticed whilst walking barefoot through a rice field in Korea that his back pain, which he suffered with, was very much better. After a little further research he learned that the Masai tribesmen of Africa do not suffer from back pain. They also display excellent posture.
Muller concluded that walking barefoot on soft, yielding ground was significantly better for your back and joints than walking on hard surfaces. He decided to develop a shoe which would reproduce the effect of walking on a soft surface such as sand or grass.
The end result was the Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT) shoe. According to the company website, it is so different to conventional footwear that it merits the name of “anti-shoe”.
The key component to MBT shoes is the specially engineered curved sole with no heel. This encourages a gentle rolling motion whenever your foot comes into contact with the ground. It is, in fact, just like walking across sand in your bare feet. Materials of different densities are used at different points in the sole and this also contributes to the effect by reducing jarring and minimizing impact shock.
Independent scientific studies have verified that this is genuinely better for your back and joints. There are further proven benefits in addition to better posture. For instance, whilst engaged in normal walking in MBT shoes, the wearer's muscles will be in use for longer (in comparison with similar walking in traditional shoes). The muscles are in use for approximately 16% longer. Wearers also tend to take slightly shorter strides. Both these effects raise the amount of work done.
The result of this is that each step you take wearing MBT shoes will provide you with additional exercise. It's like a lower body workout when you walk around. So, as well as improving posture and lowering back pain, MBT shoes can help to firm up your buttocks and tone your legs.
You would think that would be sufficient wouldn't you? However, in spite of all these benefits, some people find that MBT shoes are a little chunky and not that pleasing to the eye. MBT shoes are also a little more expensive than standard shoes (although the benefits may make them good value for money). Happily, there are now other alternatives available which work on the same basic principle but which are more aesthetically pleasing. Both Skechers Shape Ups and Fitflops have similar curved soles which are specifically designed to increase the length of time that muscles are active and to tone both legs and buttocks whilst doing nothing more strenuous than walking normally.
Whichever footwear you select, the possibility of reducing back and joint pain whilst simultaneously trimming and toning your lower body – all whilst engaged in nothing more strenuous than normal daily walking – seems very attractive.
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