MBT: A Story to Tell
MBT refers to Masai Barefoot Technology the name of a company founded in 1996 by the Swiss engineer Karl Muller. There is an interesting real-life incident attached to the birth of MBT. Karl was suffering from Achilles tendon, back and joint pains when he visited South Korea. He stayed there for 20 years. He used to walk barefoot on the rice fields regularly. One fine day, Karl discovered the Achilles tendon, back and joint pains have disappeared. He was simply astonished to discover the health benefits of walking barefoot on earth. Karl made some further studies and came to know about one of the ancient tribal groups of Africa – the Masai. These tribesmen live an isolated life away from the traces of civilization. Masai walk for miles barefoot to hunt animals for food. These people have never experienced any pain in the foot, back, or knees because of walking or standing barefoot on uneven surface.
MBT Acquired by Masai’s Top Distributor
Andy Chaw started selling MBT shoes in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong way back in 2009. In 2011, while MBT sales dropped drastically in other parts of the world, Chaw managed to grow MBT by around 300% earning him the name of Masai’s top distributor.
In 2012, Chaw received a call from a former manager at Swiss shoe brand MBT giving him the breaking news of MBT filing for bankruptcy. The manager urged Chaw to save the company. At that time, Chaw already owned a Singapore-based group, Star 360 Holdings which supplied 20 powerful brands, including Asics, Nike, Onitsuka Tiger, and MBT. It also owned and operates 100 retail stores around Asia at that time. Chaw has also created a comfort footwear brand named Ergo-Lab, while holding two patents for shoe design.
Andy Chaw bought Masai Group International without taking on any of its more than $200 million in debt. By introducing smart business strategies such as cutting down operating costs by 80%, introducing technology to prevent counterfeit sales, hiring shoe veterans, redesigning existing shoes to make them lighter and trendier, and by closing down or downsizing under-performing subsidiaries, Chaw expected the revenues from MBTs to exceed $130 million, up 60% in 12 months.
Although he initially faced some hurdles when the 2008 financial crisis slowed MBT sales worldwide while leading to some counterfeiters and cheaper and more fashionable shoe companies hitting the brand hard, Chaw quickly got over the situation and managed to boost sales of MBT.
It is not clear how much he paid for Masai, but according to industry news, he acquired MBT for more than the $8.5 million, a figure stated by the European media. He also started persuading the top suppliers to continue making MBTs, even after some of them faced a bankruptcy. Chaw expects MBT sales to go up to 50% by 2015.
Human Body Not Designed to Walk or Stand on Hard Surface
MBT discovered human body is not actually designed to walk or stand on uneven ground. So, they began to design shoes that would help people imitate walking on soft, uneven surface. Soon, people started enjoying its health benefits and MBT became a household name in the world. Today, more than 35 countries worldwide sell different designs of men and women MBTs.
MBTs Actually a Product of Science
The MBT Academy, which is the central R&D center, spends all its time testing, verifying and optimizing the effects of MBT footwear on the human foot and body. The MBT Academy provides an active forum for the international experts and researchers in the field of clinical medicine, physiotherapy and sports to engage in valuable dialogues discussing the health benefits of MBTs. Over 40 studies provide scientific documentation from independent universities and research institutes to prove the unique physical benefits of MBT shoes.
Prof. Dr. Benno M. Nigg of the University of Calgary has found MBTs help to strengthen the small muscles of the foot with respect to the rotational axes present in the joints. They also act as a mechanical training device for muscles that cross the ankle joint. Walking wearing MBTs also leads to increase of oxygen consumption by 2.5%. Tim Vernon, Jonathan Wheat, Dr. Rav Naik and Grace Pettit of the Institute Sheffield Hallam University found MBT activates muscles of the calves and hamstrings at the time of walking and exerts less pressure in the joints.
Vision and Mission of MBT
Masai Barefoot Technology was founded to reproduce the perfect instability when walking or standing on hard, uneven surface. The patented construction of MBTs makes the life of people much more comfortable and healthy. Today’s highly competitive world keeps people busy unable to take proper care of their body and feet resulting in suffering from different types of foot problems. MBTs try to help people maintain a healthy lifestyle by creating shoes that keep a person always “on the move” even when standing. More movement means increased muscle activation as well as improved posture and balance.
Technology of MBT
The unique curved sole of MBT’s consists of five key components – the contoured Polyurethane insole, the multi-functional board, midsole with Pivot Axis, patented sensor, and outsole. The soft Sensor Technology in the heel produces a pleasant and natural feeling similar to walking on a soft sandy beach. With every stride you take, the Masai Sensor produces a three-dimensional instability to which the body automatically reacts by increasing muscle activity. The midsole with Pivot Axis increases sensorimotor demands and activate the numerous postural and joint muscles present in the lower limb to allow the foot to progress with every step. Activation of the postural and joint muscles results in keeping the human body straight and balanced. The shank made of composite TPU and fiberglass helps to optimize pressure distribution under the foot while protecting the joints from getting damaged.
Comes in Different Designs
Masai Barefoot Technology comes in different sleek and stylish designs. There are bright colored footwear as well as the popular blacks and browns. The shoes are designed for all occasions for work, casual, sports, and to perfectly match with your outfit (dress MBTs). People will get a wide collection of more lightweight, more durable and more comfortable pair for their overall wellbeing.
MBTs in Training
MBT was never designed as footwear for sporting events. However, athletes find them beneficial since the shoes help to transfer sensorimotor demands in sport and exercise-specific movement patterns and keep the foot muscles active. Athletes wear MBTs to perform a series of exercises to stabilize the balance area while jumping and squatting, stabilizing the front leg balancing a barbell rod, and rolling back and forward stretching one leg.
Specially Designed Exercises for MBT Enthusiasts
To maximize the use of MBT shoes, the company has created a series of specially designed exercises. With the series of exercises, you can use MBT not only for your everyday activities but also as a training device.
It helps you find the right level of MBTs to best meet your needs. It ranks MBT into one of the three categories – Activate, Dynamic and Performance.
MBT’s brand manifesto is written beautifully in the form of a rhyme.
- THIS IS A MOVEMENT!
- A movement for every body – every day!
- A movement that you can join in your own time – at your own pace!
- It doesn’t ask you to dream or push beyond your limits!
- And the only person you need to look up to is you!!
- This is a movement that never stops
- It runs a race that has no finishing line!
- And the rewards are far greater than any trophy!
- There are no appointments to keep!
- And the only promise you make can’t be broken!
- This movement simply keeps you moving!
- and with only one thing in mind – YOU.!
- FOR THE HUMAN MOVEMENT!
Masai International Pte Ltd minimizes the emission Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs by not using chemicals with benzene structures that are toxic and can generate ozone at ground level. In 2003, MBT established its own set of standards for chemical use in the production of MBT through the Restricted Substance List (RSL). The standards match with the international standards and those developed in the footwear industry. MBT ensures all its suppliers comply with their standards. All chemical tests are performed in external laboratories, and all MBTs are delivered in cardboard shoe boxes that can be easily recycled. The company performs internal and external audits to ensure production-related environmental issues and product-related issues are fully addressed. Masai International Pte Ltd also uses different kinds of leathers that are obtained from well-managed tanneries and who comply with MBT RSL List. Masai International has decided to use chrome-tanned leather (Chrome 3), which will help them create shoes with strong, resistant yet flexible leather.
MBT ensures all its production units are run in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. The company actively supports the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) effort to “promote social justice and internationally recognized human and labor rights.”
Masai International Pte Ltd maintains a Code of Conduct implemented in all of its factories to maintain the highest level of safety in the work place. It regularly checks on adherence to the Code of Conduct, and if a factory standard is found dropping, the factory will get a limited period of time to take necessary corrective action. If no action is taken to improve working conditions, Masai International Pte Ltd will break off business ties with the respective supplier.