Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether custom insoles tailored to contours of the barefoot pressure distribution and shape of a patient's foot can reduce plantar pressures in the metatarsal head (MTH) region to a greater extent than conventional custom insoles.
Research design and methods: Seventy regions of elevated barefoot pressures (mean peak 834 kPa under MTHs) were identified in 20 subjects with diabetes. Foam box impressions of their feet were sent to three different orthotic supply companies for fabrication of custom insoles. One company was also given plantar pressure data, which were incorporated into the insole design. Measurements of in-shoe plantar pressures were recorded during gait for the three custom insoles in a flexible and a rocker-bottom shoe. Peak pressure and force-time integral were extracted for analysis.
Results: In 64 of 70 regions, the shape-plus-pressure-based insole in the flexible shoe achieved superior unloading compared with the two shape-based insoles. On average, peak pressure was reduced by 32 and 21% (both P <or= 0.0001) and force-time integral by 40 and 34% (both P < 0.0001) compared with the shape-based insoles. At the midfoot, force-time integral was increased by 51 and 33% (both P < 0.01). Similar trends were found using the rocker-bottom shoe.
Conclusions: Compared with insoles based only on shape, the use of foot shape with barefoot plantar pressure measurements in designing custom insoles results in enhanced offloading of high-pressure areas under the forefoot. This offloading was achieved by a greater transfer of load to the midfoot without additional loading of other forefoot structures.