Objective: Therapeutic footwear for diabetic foot patients aims to reduce the risk of ulceration by relieving mechanical pressure on the foot. However, footwear efficacy is generally not assessed in clinical practice. The purpose of this study was to assess the value of in-shoe plantar pressure analysis to evaluate and optimize the pressure-reducing effects of diabetic therapeutic footwear.
Research design and methods: Dynamic in-shoe plantar pressure distribution was measured in 23 neuropathic diabetic foot patients wearing fully customized footwear. Regions of interest (with peak pressure>200 kPa) were selected and targeted for pressure optimization by modifying the shoe or insole. After each of a maximum of three rounds of modifications, the effect on in-shoe plantar pressure was measured. Successful optimization was achieved with a peak pressure reduction of >25% (criterion A) or below an absolute level of 200 kPa (criterion B).
Results: In 35 defined regions, mean peak pressure was significantly reduced from 303 (SD 77) to 208 (46) kPa after an average 1.6 rounds of footwear modifications (P<0.001). This result constitutes a 30.2% pressure relief (range 18-50% across regions). All regions were successfully optimized: 16 according to criterion A, 7 to criterion B, and 12 to criterion A and B. Footwear optimization lasted on average 53 min.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that in-shoe plantar pressure analysis is an effective and efficient tool to evaluate and guide footwear modifications that significantly reduce pressure in the neuropathic diabetic foot. This result provides an objective approach to instantly improve footwear quality, which should reduce the risk for pressure-related plantar foot ulcers.