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Diabet Med. 2012 Dec;29(12):1534-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2012.03770.x.

Offloading effect of therapeutic footwear in patients with diabetic neuropathy at high risk for plantar foot ulceration.

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Department of Rehabilitation, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Custom-made therapeutic footwear is often prescribed to patients with diabetic neuropathy, foot deformity and a healed plantar foot ulcer. Offloading these feet is important to prevent ulcer recurrence. The aim was to evaluate the offloading effect of custom-made footwear in these patients.


In 171 patients with diabetic neuropathy (336 feet) with foot deformity and a recently healed plantar foot ulcer, plantar pressures walking barefoot and inside new custom-made footwear were measured. At the previous ulcer location and at locations of highest barefoot pressure attributable to the deformity, in-shoe pressures were compared with non-deformed feet. The footwear was considered effective in offloading when in-shoe peak pressure at these locations was < 200 kPa.


Mean in-shoe peak pressures ranged between 211 and 308 kPa in feet with forefoot deformity (vs. 191-222 kPa in non-deformed feet) and between 140 and 187 kPa in feet with midfoot deformity (vs. 112 kPa in non-deformed feet). Offloading was effective in 61% of all feet with deformity, 81% of feet with midfoot deformity, 44% of feet with forefoot deformity and 62% of previous ulcer locations. Inter-subject variability in measured in-shoe plantar pressure was large.


Offloading in custom-made footwear is often not sufficiently achieved in high-risk diabetic feet with deformity. Highest offloading success rates were seen at known high-risk locations such as previous ulcer locations and Charcot feet, the lowest success rates in forefoot deformities. Together with the large inter-subject variability in pressure outcomes, this emphasizes the need for evidence-based prescription and evaluation procedures to assure adequate offloading.

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