A Gym at Your Feet

A Gym at Your FeetThe ‘Anti-Shoe’ Made to Give You a Workout While You Walk 

By Wendy O. Dixon

Shoes have always had a magnetic appeal for me. I’ve stopped in my tracks and gasped while admiring a patent leather platform at the mall. As an editor, my go-to shoes have always been heels — pumps for presentations, sandals for after-hours media events, stilettos for charity events. And my feet have suffered the price of fashion.

Therefore, I was ready to put the heels in the back of the closet and try some shoes that would actually do my feet some good. Even better, I heard about a shoe that promised to benefit not only my feet but my whole body.

Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT) is a fitness shoe inspired by Africa’s Masai tribesmen, who run barefoot for miles without suffering from joint and back problems.

The patented construction of the MBT is designed to improve circulation, reduce stress on your joints and back and straighten your posture — even while standing — by creating the natural instability you get when walking in the sand or springy moss. This instability forces you to work at maintaining proper balance. The MBT’s manufacturer also claims that it will increase metabolism, burn calories and reduce cellulite.

I went to Sunset Shoes, where owner Eddy Hardy Sr. recommended the MBT Silver Sport, which is an athletic shoe that is ideal for walking and light jogging. Co-owner Eddy Hardy Jr. advised me to choose a half size larger, since the MBT runs a bit small. Both Hardys explained that these are not your typical lace-up-and-go sneakers as they handed me a DVD with instructions on how to walk in the shoes.

“You want to gradually work your way into them,” Eddy Hardy Sr. advised. “Wear them two to three hours per day at first. You’ll be sore, then you’ll feel like they are an everyday shoe.”

Eddy Hardy Jr., who has worn the MBT for four years, often hears from his customers who originally came into the store because of a doctor’s recommendation and now claim that the MBT shoes have changed their lives.

“I have customers who have had hip replacements or back surgery. They wear these shoes and become pain-free,” he said. “It helps these people because it realigns them and helps them balance by walking in a rolling motion. Because of the aid in circulation, this shoe is great for people with diabetes, too.”

While it doesn’t quite compete in the fashion department, I quickly forgave the heavy, clunky shoe when I put it on — it was like my feet were getting a hug. As I stood, I felt as though I was falling slightly backward and had to adjust my balance. The shoe’s instability was already making me work.

On my first day with my MBTs, I made sure to run a lot of errands to get some wear in. My feet felt downright fantastic as I strolled through the grocery store, the mall and down my street. And the multi-layered heel made me about 2 inches taller — without uncomfortable heels — which was all the better. By the afternoon, though, my calves were whimpering.

(I should have listened to Eddy Hardy Sr.’s advice about wearing them for just a few hours.)

The next day, I was eager to try the shoes on the treadmill. I warmed up at 4 mph and then jogged at 5 mph. Quickly, my calves went from a whimper to full-on temper tantrum, and I only made it a mile before having to take the shoes off and put on my running shoes. If that means I’m working harder in less time, I consider that an added benefit.

The only downside to the shoes is the price. They start at around $250. But you’re paying for the exceptional support and patented technology of the product.

I wear my MBTs wherever I can get away with it. And I have discovered that I don’t miss my heels and don’t care if they look less dainty than my professional shoes. My legs are more toned and my calves more defined. And my feet are happy.

In addition to Sunset Shoes in Destin and Panama City, MBT shoes are available on several Web sites, including zappos.com and dillards.com.