Effect of metatarsal pad placement on plantar pressure in people with diabetes mellitus and peripheral neuropathy

Foot Ankle Int. 2007 Jan;28(1):84-8. doi: 10.3113/FAI.2007.0015.


Background: Standard prevention and treatment strategies to decrease peak plantar pressure include a total contact insert with a metatarsal pad, but no clear guidelines exist to determine optimal placement of the pad with respect to the metatarsal head. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of metatarsal pad location on peak plantar pressure in subjects with diabetes mellitus and peripheral neuropathy.

Methods: Twenty subjects with diabetes mellitus, peripheral neuropathy, and a history of forefoot plantar ulcers were studied (12 men and eight women, mean age=57+/-9 years). CT determined the position of the metatarsal pad relative to metatarsal head and peak plantar pressures were measured on subjects in three footwear conditions: extra-depth shoes and a 1) total contact insert, 2) total contact insert and a proximal metatarsal pad, and 3) total contact insert and a distal metatarsal pad. The change in peak plantar pressure between shoe conditions was plotted and compared to metatarsal pad position relative to the second metatarsal head.

Results: Compared to the total contact insert, all metatarsal pad placements between 6.1 mm to 10.6 mm proximal to the metatarsal head line resulted in a pressure reduction (average reduction=32+/-16%). Metatarsal pad placements between 1.8 mm distal and 6.1 mm proximal and between 10.6 mm proximal and 16.8 mm proximal to the metatarsal head line resulted in variable peak plantar pressure reduction (average reduction=16+/-21%). Peak plantar pressure increased when the metatarsal pad was located more than 1.8 mm distal to the metatarsal head line.

Conclusions: Consistent peak plantar pressure reduction occurred when the metatarsal pad in this study was located between 6 to 11 mm proximal to the metatarsal head line. Pressure reduction lessened as the metatarsal pad moved outside of this range and actually increased if the pad was located too distal of this range. Computational models are needed to help predict optimal location of metatarsal pad with a variety of sizes, shapes, and material properties.

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus / physiopathology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / physiopathology*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / therapy
  • Female
  • Foot / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metatarsal Bones / diagnostic imaging
  • Metatarsal Bones / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Orthotic Devices*
  • Pressure
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed