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Effect of a Forefoot Off-loading Postoperative Shoe on Muscle Activity, Posture, and Static Balance

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  • 1 School of Health Professions, Faculty of Health, Education, and Society, Plymouth University, Plymouth, England.
  • | 2 Orthopaedic Department, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, England.
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Background:

We investigated whether a forefoot off-loading postoperative shoe (FOPS) alters standing posture, ankle muscle activity, and static postural sway and whether any effects are altered by wearing a shoe raise on the contralateral side.

Methods:

Posture, ankle muscle activity, and postural sway were compared in 14 healthy participants wearing either a FOPS or a control shoe with or without a contralateral shoe raise. Participants were tested under different sensory and support surface conditions. Additionally, reductions in peak pressure under the forefoot while walking were assessed with and without a contralateral shoe raise to determine whether the FOPS continued to achieve its primary off-loading function.

Results:

Compared with the control condition, wearing a FOPS moved the center of pressure posteriorly, increased tibialis anterior muscle activity, and reduced ankle plantarflexor activity. These changes decreased when a contralateral shoe raise was added. No difference in postural sway was found between footwear conditions. Forefoot peak pressure was always reduced when wearing the FOPS.

Conclusions:

The posterior shift in center of pressure toward and behind the ankle joint axis is believed to result in the increase in tibialis anterior muscle activity that now acts as the primary stabilizer around the ankle. Instability may, therefore, increase in patients with weak tibialis anterior muscles (eg, diabetic neuropathy) who need to wear offloading devices for ulcer management. We suggest that the addition of a contralateral shoe raise fitted with a FOPS may potentially be beneficial in maintaining stability while off-loading the forefoot in this patient group. (J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 103(1): 36–42, 2013)

Corresponding author: Jonathan Marsden, BSc, MSc, PhD, Faculty of Health, Education, and Society, FF15 Peninsula Allied Health Centre, Derriford Road, Plymouth, Devon, England PL6 8BH. (E-mail: Jonathan.Marsden@plymouth.ac.uk)