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J Biomech. 2010 Sep 17;43(13):2467-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2010.05.029. Epub 2010 Jun 11.

Effect of boot shaft stiffness on stability joint energy and muscular co-contraction during walking on uneven surface.

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Gait Laboratory, Orthopedic Hospital for Children, Bernauerstr. 18, Aschau i. Chiemgau, Germany.


Increased boot shaft stiffness may have a noticeable impact on the range of motion of the ankle joint. Therefore, the ability of the ankle joint to generate power for propulsion might be impaired. This might result in compensatory changes at the knee and hip joint. Besides, adaptability of the subtalar joint to uneven surface might be reduced, which could in turn affect stability. The aim of the study was therefore to investigate the influence of boot shaft stiffness on biomechanical gait parameters. Fifteen healthy young adults walked over coarse gravel wearing two different hiking boots that differed by 50% in passive shaft stiffness. Leg kinematics, kinetics and electromyography were measured. Gait velocity and indicators for stability were not different when walking with the hard and soft boot shaft over the gravel surface. However, the hard boot shaft decreased the ankle range of motion as well as the eccentric energy absorbed at the ankle joint. As a consequence, compensatory changes at the knee joint were observed. Co-contraction was increased, and greater eccentric energy was absorbed. Therefore, the efficiency of gait with hard boots might be decreased and joint loading at the knee might be increased, which might cause early fatigue of knee muscles during walking or hiking. The results of this study suggest that stiffness and blocking of joint motion at the ankle should not be equated with safety. A trade-off between lateral stiffness and free natural motion of the ankle joint complex might be preferable.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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