Plantar forefoot pain is common in older people and is related to increased peak pressures under the foot during gait. Variations in the hardness of the shoe sole may therefore influence both the magnitude of loading under the foot and the perceived comfort of the shoe in this population. The aim of this investigation was to determine the effect of varying shoe sole hardness on plantar pressures and comfort in older people with forefoot pain. In-shoe plantar pressures under the forefoot, midfoot and rearfoot were recorded from 35 older people (mean age 73.2, SD 4.5 years) with current or previous forefoot pain using the pedar-X(®) system. Participants walked at their normal comfortable speed along an 8m walkway in shoes with three different levels of sole hardness: soft (Shore A25), medium (Shore A40) and hard (Shore A58). Shoe comfort was measured on a 100mm visual analogue scale. There were statistically significant differences in peak pressure of between 5% and 23% across the forefoot, midfoot and rearfoot (p<0.01). The hard-soled shoe registered the highest peak pressures and the soft-soled shoe the lowest peak pressures. However, no differences in comfort scores across the three shoe conditions were observed. These findings demonstrate that as shoe sole hardness increases, plantar pressure increases, however this does not appear to have a significant effect on shoe comfort.
Keywords: Aged; Footwear; Gait; Kinetics.
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