Recognition of the changes during gait that occur normally as a part of growth is essential to prevent mislabeling those changes from adult gait as evidence of gait pathology. Currently, in the literature, the definition of a mature age for ankle joint dynamics is controversial (i.e., between 5 and 10 years). Moreover, the mature age of the metatarsophalangeal (MP) joint, which is essential for the functioning of the foot, has not been defined in the literature. Thus, the objective of the present study explored foot mechanics (ankle and MP joints) in young children to define a mature age of foot function. Forty-two healthy children between 1 and 6 years of age and eight adults were measured during gait. The ground reaction force (GRF), the MP and ankle joint angles, moments, powers, and 3D angles between the joint moment and the joint angular velocity vectors (3D angle α(M.ω)) were processed and compared between four age groups (2, 3.5, 5 and adults). Based on statistical analysis, the MP joint biomechanical parameters were similar between children (older than 2 years) and adults, hinting at a quick maturation of this joint mechanics. The ankle joint parameters and the GRFs (except for the frontal plane) showed an adult-like pattern in 5-year-old children. Some ankle joint parameters, such as the joint power and the 3D angle α(M.ω) still evolved significantly until 3.5 years. Based on these results, it would appear that foot maturation during gait is fully achieved at 5 years.
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