Effects of obesity and foot arch height on gait mechanics: A cross-sectional study

PLoS One. 2021 Nov 29;16(11):e0260398. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0260398. eCollection 2021.


Foot arch structure contributes to lower-limb joint mechanics and gait in adults with obesity. However, it is not well-known if excessive weight and arch height together affect gait mechanics compared to the effects of excessive weight and arch height alone. The purpose of this study was to determine the influences of arch height and obesity on gait mechanics in adults. In this study, 1) dynamic plantar pressure, 2) spatiotemporal gait parameters, 3) foot progression angle, and 4) ankle and knee joint angles and moments were collected in adults with normal weight with normal arch heights (n = 11), normal weight with lower arch heights (n = 10), obesity with normal arch heights (n = 8), and obesity with lower arch heights (n = 18) as they walked at their preferred speed and at a pedestrian standard walking speed, 1.25 m/s. Digital foot pressure data were used to compute a measure of arch height, the Chippaux-Smirak Index (CSI). Our results revealed that BMI and arch height were each associated with particular measures of ankle and knee joint mechanics during walking in healthy young adults: (i) a higher BMI with greater peak internal ankle plantar-flexion moment and (ii) a lower arch height with greater peak internal ankle eversion and abduction moments and peak internal knee abduction moment (i.e., external knee adduction moment). Our results have implications for understanding the role of arch height in reducing musculoskeletal injury risks, improving gait, and increasing physical activity for people living with obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Foot / anatomy & histology*
  • Foot / pathology
  • Gait*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Walking
  • Walking Speed
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This study was supported by funds from a Dudley Allen Sargent Research Fund from Boston University. However, the funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.