Background: There is a need for evidence of clinical effectiveness of foot orthosis therapy. This study evaluated the effect of foot orthoses made by ten podiatrists, ten pedorthists and eleven orthotists on plantar pressure and walking convenience for three patients with metatarsalgia. Aims were to assess differences and variability between and within the disciplines. The relationship between the importance of pressure reduction and the effect on peak pressure was also evaluated.
Methods: Each therapist examined all three patients and was asked to rate the 'importance of pressure reduction' through a visual analogue scale. The orthoses were evaluated twice in two sessions while the patient walked on a treadmill. Plantar pressures were recorded with an in-sole measuring system. Patients scored walking convenience per orthosis. The effects of the orthoses on peak pressure reduction were calculated for the whole plantar surface of the forefoot and six regions: big toe and metatarsal one to five.
Results: Within each discipline there was an extensive variation in construction of the orthoses and achieved peak pressure reductions. Pedorthists and orthotists achieved greater maximal peak pressure reductions calculated over the whole forefoot than podiatrists: 960, 1020 and 750 kPa, respectively (p < .001). This was also true for the effect in the regions with the highest baseline peak pressures and walking convenience rated by patients A and B. There was a weak relationship between the 'importance of pressure reduction' and the achieved pressure reduction for orthotists, but no relationship for podiatrists and pedorthotists.
Conclusion: The large variation for various aspects of foot orthoses therapy raises questions about a consistent use of concepts for pressures management within the professional groups.