This study aimed to understand how systematic changes in arch height and two designs of heel wedging affect soft tissues under the foot. Soft tissue thickness under the heel and navicular was measured using ultrasound. Heel pad thickness was measured when subjects were standing on a flat surface and standing on an orthosis with 4 and 8 degree extrinsic wedges and 4 mm and 8 mm intrinsic wedges (n = 27). Arch soft tissue thickness was measured when subjects were standing and when standing on an orthosis with -6 mm, standard, and +6 mm increments in arch height (n = 25). Extrinsic and intrinsic heel wedges significantly increased soft tissue thickness under the heel compared with no orthosis. The 4 and 8 degree extrinsic wedges increased tissue thickness by 28% and 27.6%, respectively, while the 4 mm and 8 mm intrinsic wedges increased thickness by 23% and 14.6%, respectively. Orthotic arch height significantly affected arch soft tissue thickness. Compared with the no orthosis condition, the -6 mm, standard, and +6 mm arch heights decreased arch tissue thickness by 9%, 10%, and 11.8%, respectively. This study demonstrates that change in orthotic geometry creates different plantar soft tissue responses that we expect to affect transmission of force to underlying foot bones.
Keywords: antipronation; arch profile; extrinsic wedge; foot orthosis; heel pad; intrinsic wedge; plantar foot; pronation; tissue compression; ultrasound.