Heel Rise and Non-Weight-Bearing Ankle Plantar Flexion Tasks to Assess Foot and Ankle Function in People With Diabetes Mellitus and Peripheral Neuropathy

Phys Ther. 2021 Jul 1;101(7):pzab096. doi: 10.1093/ptj/pzab096.


Objective: The objective of this study was to examine the effects of diabetes mellitus and peripheral neuropathy (DMPN), limited joint mobility, and weight-bearing on foot and ankle sagittal movements and characterize the foot and ankle position during heel rise.

Methods: Sixty people with DMPN and 22 controls participated. Primary outcomes were foot (forefoot on hindfoot) and ankle (hindfoot on shank) plantar-flexion/dorsiflexion angle during 3 tasks: unilateral heel rise, bilateral heel rise, and non-weight-bearing ankle plantar flexion. A repeated-measures analysis of variance and Fisher exact test were used.

Results: Main effects of task and group were significant, but not the interaction in both foot and ankle plantar flexion. Foot and ankle plantar flexion were less in people with DMPN compared with controls in all tasks. Both DMPN and control groups had significantly less foot and ankle plantar flexion with greater weight-bearing; however, the linear trend across tasks was similar between groups. The DMPN group had a greater percentage of individuals in foot and/or ankle dorsiflexion at peak unilateral heel rise compared with controls, but the foot and ankle position was similar at peak bilateral heel rise between DMPN and control groups.

Conclusion: Foot and ankle plantar flexion is less in people with DMPN. Less plantar flexion in non-weight-bearing suggests that people with DMPN have limited joint mobility. However, peak unilateral and bilateral heel rise is less than the available plantar flexion range of motion measured in non-weight-bearing, indicating that limited joint mobility does not limit heel rise performance. A higher frequency of people with DMPN are in foot and ankle dorsiflexion at peak unilateral heel rise compared with controls, but the position improved with lower weight-bearing.

Impact: Proper resistance should be considered with physical therapist interventions utilizing heel rise because foot and ankle plantar flexion position could be improved by reducing the amount of weight-bearing.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02616263.

Keywords: Diabetes; Foot-ankle Kinematics; Midfoot; Plantar Flexion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Diabetes Mellitus / physiopathology*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Foot Joints / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology*
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02616263