MBT is not a new shoe company, but most people in the running community probably haven’t heard of them or even know their name stands for “Maasai Barefoot Technology.” All the MBT shoes use a rocker in the midsole. A rocker is a bump in the midfoot that makes it hard to land on your heel and easy to roll off your toes. We were sent the Speed, their lightest “fastest” model from their running line-up.
Thomas: The MBT Speed 16’s looks are deceiving, they are lighter than they appear. At 9.75 oz. for a size 10.5 the Speed is in the lighter shoe category. There is plenty of midsole for cushioning and MBT’s Pivot Strike™ technology. Not sure if technology is the right word, but the standout feature of the MBT shoes is a rocker bottom with a midfoot build up “bump” that makes landing on your heel almost impossible. If you ever ran in the first couple of Skechers GOrun you will be familiar with the bump I am referring to. After getting used to the Pivot Strike™ I was able to efficiently keep my pace and my mileage up. The MBT Speed 16’s cushioning is on the firmer side.
Meaghan: The MBT is a new brand of running shoe for me. As a HOKA fan, I figured I’d like the rocker design. I did, for the most part. What I noticed almost immediately was that these shoes make you want to keep moving forward. The rocker sole seems to force your stride to continue. I remember wanting to stop in the middle of a long run but it seemed easier to keep moving forward. So, I did. It’s hard to explain, but if you have the opportunity to run in a pair I think you will understand what I’m talking about. There is nothing that stands out on the shoe other than the midfoot bump. The upper is designed with a breathable mesh and semi-flat lacing. The overlays are stitched on, but I didn’t have any issue with rubbing or irritation. I was surprised by the weight of the Speed 16. It’s a lot of shoe for 7.5oz (for a women’s 7.5). The outsole has proven durable. I’ve seen little to no wear after 50+ miles.
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Thomas: While I enjoyed running in the MBT Speed 16, the shoe feels like a prototype. What I mean by that is, the upper looks and feels unfinished or ready for another round of design adjustments. The Speed would benefit from updates to the overlay materials and upper mesh materials. The upper reminds me of the early Altra shoes before they had investment money from Icon Health & Fitness. The bones of the shoe are there, they just need a little dressing. The tongue and heel counter are pretty puffy, this may be a result of the upper lacking a true structure, and relying on the excess plush to hold your foot snugly in the shoe.
Meaghan: When I first opened the box of MBT Speeds I thought sweet nurse shoes. The giant rocker design in all white isn’t exactly aesthetically pleasing. Good news: they come in other colorways. Looks aside, the negatives for me were in the fit and feel. The overly-firm midsole/outsole was an issue for me on longer runs. Anything over 10 miles had me yearning for something softer underfoot. I also had some heel-slippage. I was able to control it with some tightened laces, but it never felt perfectly secure.
Thomas: The Pivot Strike™ takes a little time to adjust to. Once I got into stride, things fell into place and my perceived effort was lower than typically at marathon pace. Could be the shoes, or it could be that my fitness is getting better. Overall the shoe is in a little bit of a limbo spot. The MBT Speed 16 reminds me of an Altra, Skechers GOrun and Hoka mash-up. Many midfoot strikers will enjoy this shoe, and after getting used to the bump I enjoyed putting runs in with the Speed 16. If you are a runner looking for a low drop shoe, the Speed 16 has a 0.5 drop. I would have just made it zero at that point, but whatever. MBT will tweak the Speed and I expect while I like the Speed 16, I will like the upcoming versions even more.
Meaghan: The MBT Speed 16 is a well-made, durable shoe. I wore the Speed for several short runs, a couple long runs (over 12 miles) and spent some time walking around in them. I found myself enjoying them most on short runs. Contrary to Thomas, I don’t think you need to be a natural midfoot striker to enjoy miles in the Speed 16. I heel strike and didn’t have an issue with my stride. If you’re a fan of the rocker design, this is a shoe you need to try, and for $110 you can.