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Foot-to-Shoe Mismatch and Rates of Referral in Special Olympics Athletes

David W. Jenkins Arizona School of Podiatric Medicine, College of Health Sciences, Midwestern University, Glendale, AZ.
Special Olympics, Arizona Fit Feet, Phoenix, AZ.

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Kimbal Cooper Biomedical Sciences Program, Midwestern University, Glendale, AZ.

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Rachel O’Connor Arizona School of Podiatric Medicine, College of Health Sciences, Midwestern University, Glendale, AZ.

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Liane Watanabe Arizona School of Podiatric Medicine, College of Health Sciences, Midwestern University, Glendale, AZ.

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Background:

Improperly fitted shoes are frequently seen in athletes participating in Special Olympics competitions. This foot-to-shoe mismatch may result in deformities as well as discomfort and reduced performance or injuries in competitions. A primary purpose for providing medical screenings is to identify conditions unknown and to promptly refer to an appropriate provider for evaluation and care. This study attempts to determine the prevalence of improperly fitted shoes and the rate of referral for Special Olympics athletes screened at Fit Feet venues.

Methods:

To evaluate the foot-to-shoe mismatch and rate of referral, 4,094 Fit Feet screenings of Special Olympics athletes participating in US competitions in 2005 to 2009 were analyzed. The participants were 58.5% male and 41.5% female, with a median age of 25.6 years. A power analysis and the χ2 test were used. The athletes voluntarily underwent a foot screening that followed the standardized Special Olympics Fit Feet protocol. The Brannock Device for measuring feet was used to assess proper fit.

Results:

A proper fit was found in 58.56% of the athletes, with 28.60% wearing shoes too big and 12.84% wearing shoes too small. Unrelated to shoe fit, 20% of the athletes required referrals for professional follow-up based on abnormal clinical findings.

Conclusions:

There is a significant (41.44%) mismatch of foot to shoe in Special Olympics athletes. The most common mismatch is a shoe too big, with a much smaller number of athletes having shoes too small. Awareness of this foot-to-shoe incompatibility may be useful for the development of shoes better designed for athletes with a foot structure not consistent with conventional shoes. Because 20% of the athletes required a referral for professional follow-up, Fit Feet examinations are important for identifying athletes with conditions that can be more readily evaluated and treated, thus improving the athletes’ comfort and performance. Beyond knowing the rate of referral, future studies can determine the conditions or findings that necessitate a referral and the ultimate outcome of that referral. (J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 102(3): 187–197, 2012)

Corresponding author: David W. Jenkins, DPM, Arizona School of Podiatric Medicine, College of Health Sciences, Midwestern University, 19555 N. 59th Ave, Glendale, AZ 85308. (E-mail: djenki@midwestern.edu)