An MRI compatible loading device for the reconstruction of clinically relevant plantar pressure distributions and loading scenarios of the forefoot

The purpose of this study is to demonstrate a new MRI compatible loading device capable of reconstructing realistic loading scenarios of the human foot for research in the field of foot biomechanics. This device has two different configurations: one used to compress the forefoot and one to bend the metatarsophalangeal joints. Required plantar pressure distribution under the metatarsal heads can be achieved by modifying the distribution of the dorsally applied forces. To validate the device, subject-specific plantar pressures were measured and then reconstructed using the device. For quiet stance the peak pressure reconstruction error was 3% while for mid-stance phase of gait it was 8%. The device was also used to measure the passive bending stiffness of the metatarsophalangeal joints of one subject with low intra-subject variability. A series of preliminary MRI scans confirmed that the loading device can be used to produce static weight-bearing images of the foot (voxel size: 0.23 mm × 0.23 mm × 1.00 mm). The results indicate that the device presented here can accurately reconstruct subject specific plantar pressure distributions and measure the foot’s metatarsophalangeal passive stiffness. Possible future applications include the validation of finite element models, the investigation of the relationship between plantar pressure and internal stresses/strains and the study of the foot’s inter-segmental passive stiffness.

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