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Gait Posture. 2010 Jun;32(2):215-9. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2010.04.018. Epub 2010 May 23.

Standing in an unstable shoe increases postural sway and muscle activity of selected smaller extrinsic foot muscles.

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  • 1Human Performance Laboratory, Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive N.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4.


Inactivity or the under-utilization of lower limb muscles can lead to strength and functional deficits and potential injury. Traditional shoes with stability and support features can overprotect the foot and potentially contribute to the deterioration of the smaller extrinsic foot muscles. Healthy subjects (n=28) stood in an unstable MBT (Masai Barefoot Technology) shoe during their work day for a 6-week accommodation period. A two-way repeated measures ANOVA was used to determine (i) if unstable shoe wear increased electromyographic (EMG) activity of selected extrinsic foot muscles and increased postural sway compared to standing barefoot and in a stable control shoe and (ii) if postural sway and muscle activity across footwear conditions differed between a pre- and post-accommodation testing visit. Using an EMG circumferential linear array, it was shown that standing in the unstable shoe increased activity of the flexor digitorum longus, peroneal (PR) and anterior compartment (AC) muscles of the lower leg. No activity differences for the larger soleus (SOL) were identified between the stable and unstable shoe conditions. Postural sway was greater while standing in the unstable shoe compared to barefoot and the stable control shoe. These findings suggest that standing in the unstable MBT shoe effectively activates selected extrinsic foot muscles and could have implications for strengthening and conditioning these muscles. Postural sway while standing in the unstable MBT shoe also decreased over the 6-week accommodation period.

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