As I sat in my recliner, recovering from a circulatory issue, I was trying to figure out how I would walk again. My neighbor, Judy Spivey, came over wearing rocking shoes called “Masai Barefoot Trainers”, MBTs, she had just purchased. She said they made you rock back and forth and “strengthen your core.” It instantly clicked to me that perhaps these shoes could help my microvascular circulatory troubles.
I had been wearing hard orthotics for years to correct a biomechanical congenital foot deformity, forefoot valgus with a Haglund’s protuberance on my heel. In retrospect, however, this may result in muscle atrophy of the lower extremities from too much dependence on hard orthotics.
I ordered the MBT shoes immediately and when I received them, I began walking around the house. It was almost like walking on a cloud. Blood seemed to be distributed throughout my body. The next day, I was able to walk 3 miles in the barefoot trainers, and previously I had been barely able to walk several blocks in hard orthotics. With every step in my Masai Barefoot Trainers, my core and whole body was engaged.
For the past 14 years I have been wearing the Masai Barefoot Trainers, resulting in training of my core and midsection just by walking. One doctor that examined me commented “are you a speed skater?”, as he noticed my prominent quadriceps and abdominal core musculature.
The Masai barefoot trainers were invented by Peter Fongey and Anthony Bateman. The inventors had noticed that the Masai Tribe in Africa walked through sand barefoot at all times. These nomadic people never seemed to develop arthritic changes and never seemed to require total knee or hip replacements.
Man was meant to walk barefoot over the sand. So, the Masai Barefoot Trainers were designed to stimulate this process. This allows people, like most of us, to walk on concrete or asphalt as though it were sand. Most people in urban society spend all of their time walking on hard concrete or tile, and this may predispose them to wear and tear and arthritic changes that ultimately could lead to total joint replacement.
In biomechanics, the battle is between control and no control. The Masai Barefoot Trainers represent complete absence of control of the foot, moving freely, as opposed to hard orthotics, which restrict controls of foot motion. The balance I have achieved between these two options is that I usually train and walk distance in Masai Barefoot Trainers on hard surfaces, and then wear softer orthotics while walking on boardwalks and sandy trails in Florida and North Carolina. This balance between control and no control of foot biomechanics has worked the best for my training regimen. Masai Barefoot Trainers have been a huge part of my recovery.
But as usual in this society, when you depend on a product, they stop making it 5 years into my MBT immersion and they became difficult to acquire, and I acquired large numbers of MBTs before they were taken off the market. Apparently, there was a lawsuit with Sketchers, who were also making a rocking shoe, and this forced both companies to not make the shoes in the United States, and MBT returned to Europe. So, currently, I am forced to acquire my shoes from Europe. I note that anyone who, as we all do, eventually develop some foot issues, when you find a shoe you like, it is best that you stockpile as many pairs as you can before they stop making them. I almost felt like Imelda Marcos, the famous Philippine President, who had multiple closets full of shoes, while her people were struggling.