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Med Eng Phys. 2011 Dec;33(10):1309-13. doi: 10.1016/j.medengphy.2011.05.009. Epub 2011 Jun 22.

Differences in neutral foot positions when measured barefoot compared to in shoes with varying stiffnesses.

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Wolf Orthopaedic Biomechanics Laboratory, Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic, The University of Western Ontario, Canada.



This study examined the absolute differences in neutral positions of the joints of the foot with different footwear. This addresses the question of whether separate static trials should be collected for each footwear condition to establish neutral positions.


A multi-segment kinematic foot model and optical motion analysis system measured four inter-segmental joints of the foot: (1) hindfoot-to-midfoot in the frontal plane, (2) forefoot-to-midfoot in the frontal plane, (3) hallux-to-forefoot in the sagittal plane, and (4) the height-to-length ratio of the medial longitudinal arch. Barefoot was compared to three shoe condition using Nike Free trainers of varying longitudinal torsional stiffness in ten male volunteers.


There was high variability both within subjects and shoe conditions. Shoes in general tended to raise the medial longitudinal arch and dorsiflex the hallux compared to barefoot condition. For the hallux, a minimum important difference of 5° or more was found between shoe conditions and the barefoot condition for majority of the subjects in all three shoe conditions (90% for control, 60% for least stiff, 50% for most stiff). This was less for the frontal plane inter-segmental joints of the foot where 50% of the subjects experience a change above 5° for at least one of the conditions.


The choice of using condition-specific neutral trials versus a single common neutral trials should be considered carefully. A single common trial allows for differences in absolute joint angles to be compared between footwear conditions. This can be important clinically to determine whether a joint is approaching its end-of-range and therefore at risk of injury. Several condition-specific neutral trials allows for subtleties in kinematic waveforms to be better compared between conditions, since absolute shifts in joint angles due to changing neutral position are removed and the waveforms are better aligned.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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