Pneumatic bracing and total contact casting have equivocal effects on plantar pressure relief

The purpose was to examine and compare plantar pressures produced in healthy subjects while wearing a running shoe (RS), total contact cast (TCC) and ‘customized’ pneumatic pre-fabricated walking brace (PWB). A repeated measures design was used to compare the plantar pressures recorded for three footwear types (RS, TCC, PWB) in two body regions (forefoot, heel). Nine healthy subjects walked at a self-selected walking pace on a motorized treadmill while wearing the RS, TCC and PWB (ordered randomization). Following a five-minute acclimatization period on the treadmill with each footwear device, plantar pressures were recorded from 84 constant gait speed and step length steps using the Pedar system of in-shoe array of capacitive sensors embedded in an insert. Mean spatially averaged peak plantar pressures were recorded for the metatarsal heads and heel region for each footwear device worn by each subject. A two-way analysis of variance with repeated measures and post-hoc Tukey tests analysed the data with a significance level of p=.05. The main effects of footwear (p=.005) and body region (p=.000), and interaction effect (body region x footwear device) (p=.000) were significant. Unloading of the forefoot was 63.72% and 58.77% for the TCC and PWB, respectively, whereas loading under the heel was increased 37.09% and 34.11% for the same two devices, respectively. Patients who develop neuropathic plantar ulcers in the forefoot region, but not in the heel region, may benefit from a reduction in plantar pressures by using either the TCC or a ‘customized’ PWB. An alternative footwear device still needs to be found for those patients with heel ulceration.

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