INTRODUCTION: Outsole parameters of the shoe can be adapted to offload regions of pain or region of high pressures. Previous studies already showed reduced plantar pressures in the forefoot due to a proximally placed apex position and higher longitudinal bending stiffness (LBS). The aim of this study was to determine the effect of changes in rocker radii and high LBS on the plantar pressure profile during gait.
METHOD: 10 participants walked in seven shoe conditions of which one control shoe and six rocker shoes with small, medium and large rocker radii and low and high longitudinal bending stiffness. Pedar in-shoe plantar pressure measuring system was used to quantify plantar pressures while walking on a treadmill at self-selected walking speed. Peak plantar pressure, maximum mean pressure and force-time integral were analyzed with Generalized Estimated Equation (GEE) and Tukey post hoc correction (α = .05).
RESULTS: Significantly lower plantar pressures were found in the first toe, toes 2-5, distal and proximal forefoot in all rocker shoe conditions as compared to the control shoe. Plantar pressures in the first toe and toes 2-5 were significantly lower in the small radius compared to medium and large radii. For the distal forefoot both small and medium radii significantly reduced plantar pressure compared to large radii. Low LBS reduced plantar pressure at the first toe significantly compared to high LBS independent of the rocker radius. Plantar pressures in the distal forefoot and toes 2-5 were lower in high LBS compared to low LBS.
CONCLUSION: Manipulation of the rocker radius and LBS can effectively reduce peak plantar pressures in the forefoot region during gait. In line with previous studies, we showed that depending on the exact target location for offloading, different combinations of rocker radius and LBS need to be adopted to maximize treatment effects.