Thursday, February 26, 2009

Can a Pair of Shoes Make a Difference in Your Back?

So many people suffer from back pain that it is no surprise how many scams and shams there are surrounding the whole field of back care products. I recently reviewed a $250 back care product on this blog, the "Back 2 Life Machine," which shows how easy it is to get caught up in overstated claims. The people in those TV spots promoting the device appeared to be completely cured of their back pain (they must be actors). Instead, that device made my back feel even worse.

However, my wife has experienced foot problems and I watched with interest how she dealt with them. Several decades of wearing high-heels exclusively left her feet in very poor condition, and after consultation with both a foot doctor as well as numerous shoe reps, she chose a pair of shoes called MBT, a brand which calls itself the "Anti-Shoe Company." They make a shoe which is completely different; it is built on the correct physiology of the foot -- in other words, how we were intended to walk when ancient man traveled on sand, dirt or mud. (Let's face it, cave men weren't walking on concrete, asphalt and tile all day long. Perhaps if man had walked exclusively on flat, hard rock than our feet would have evolved somewhat differently).

The bottom of the MBT shoe is rounded. There's a very thick sole, thickest where your foot lands, and then you roll your feet as you walk with the curved bottom of the shoe. The inventor of the shoe, a Swiss engineer, built them to emulate the feeling of walking barefoot in sand.

Walking in a pair of MBT's feels weird at first, but once you've had an hour or two in them, you notice how you are standing straighter when you walk. Your posture is completely different than it is when walking in normal shoes. (Walking in normal shoes gives us a rather slanted, forward-focused stance which puts a strain on the lower back. In MBT's, there is no strain on the back at all -- your spine is in perfect alignment.) Click on the headline in this blog post to see a brief animation of how this works.

Now, both my wife and I have a pair of MBT's, which are the single most-expensive shoes I've ever purchased. I think they are helping my back a great deal -- I'll update this review in 3-6 months. when it is definitive, but from my first two or three weeks I can tell you that it appears the best solution for my aching back is just a better pair of shoes.



Dave Jensen said...

I'm nearly a month into my new MBT's. Still feeling great when I walk in them. Because we don't wear shoes in the house, I actually look forward to going outside for the mail or to take a stroll around the neighborhood, so that I can put on my shoes. I'll keep you informed.

RCP said...

I have been wearing z-coil shoes for the last 4-5 years. I have had 2 back surgeries over the years and live with back pain every day. But the shoes do help with the ability to do activities longer. I can do standing activities far longer than with regular shoes. I occasionally see others wearing them, but not too often. I think people tend to be a little vain and think they look to weird. But after years of back pain, vanity goes out the window.

Anonymous said...

I had a problem with foot and back pain. Finn comforts solved my problem. They aren't great to look at, but I'm old enough that I don't care anymore.

Chung Shi shoes are competitors of MBTs. I've seen reviews of both and chose the Chung Shi for walking.