Subsensory vibrations to the feet reduce gait variability in elderly fallers

Gait Posture. 2009 Oct;30(3):383-7. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2009.07.005. Epub 2009 Jul 25.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of subsensory vibratory noise applied to the soles of the feet on gait variability in a population of elderly recurrent fallers compared to non-fallers and young controls. Eighteen elderly recurrent fallers and 18 elderly non-fallers were recruited from the MOBILIZE Boston Study (MBS), a population-based cohort study investigating novel risk factors for falls. Twelve young participants were included as controls. Participants performed three 6-min walking trials while wearing a pair of insoles containing vibrating actuators. During each trial, the noise stimulus was applied for 3 of the 6min, and differences in stride, stance, and swing time variability were analyzed between noise and no-noise conditions. The use of vibrating insoles significantly reduced stride, stance, and swing time variability measures for elderly recurrent fallers. Elderly non-fallers also demonstrated significant reductions in stride and stance time variability. Although young participants showed decreases in all variability measures, the results did not achieve statistical significance. Gait variability reductions with noise were similar between the elderly recurrent fallers and elderly non-fallers. This study supports the hypothesis that subsensory vibratory noise applied to the soles of the feet can reduce gait variability in elderly participants. Future studies are needed to determine if this intervention reduces falls risk.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls* / prevention & control
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Feedback
  • Female
  • Foot / physiopathology*
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Orthotic Devices*
  • Postural Balance / physiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Shoes
  • Vibration