Background: Achilles tendinopathy is a common condition that can cause marked pain and disability. Numerous non-surgical treatments have been proposed for the treatment of this condition, but many of these treatments have a poor or non-existent evidence base. The exception to this is eccentric calf muscle exercises, which have become a standard non-surgical intervention for Achilles tendinopathy. Foot orthoses have also been advocated as a treatment for Achilles tendinopathy, but the long-term efficacy of foot orthoses for this condition is unknown. This manuscript describes the design of a randomised trial to evaluate the efficacy of customised foot orthoses to reduce pain and improve function in people with Achilles tendinopathy.
Methods: One hundred and forty community-dwelling men and women aged 18 to 55 years with Achilles tendinopathy (who satisfy inclusion and exclusion criteria) will be recruited. Participants will be randomised, using a computer-generated random number sequence, to either a control group (sham foot orthoses made from compressible ethylene vinyl acetate foam) or an experimental group (customised foot orthoses made from semi-rigid polypropylene). Both groups will be prescribed a calf muscle eccentric exercise program, however, the primary difference between the groups will be that the experimental group receive customised foot orthoses, while the control group receive sham foot orthoses. The participants will be instructed to perform eccentric exercises 2 times per day, 7 days per week, for 12 weeks. The primary outcome measure will be the total score of the Victorian Institute of Sport Assessment - Achilles (VISA-A) questionnaire. The secondary outcome measures will be participant perception of treatment effect, comfort of the foot orthoses, use of co-interventions, frequency and severity of adverse events, level of physical activity and health-related quality of life (assessed using the Short-Form-36 questionnaire - Version two). Data will be collected at baseline, then at 1, 3, 6 and 12 months. Data will be analysed using the intention to treat principle.
Discussion: This study is the first randomised trial to evaluate the long-term efficacy of customised foot orthoses for the treatment of Achilles tendinopathy. The study has been pragmatically designed to ensure that the study findings are generalisable to clinical practice.
Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry Number: ACTRN12609000829213.