The heel pad acts as a shock absorber in walking and in heel-strike running. In some patients, a reduction of its shock-absorbing capacity has been connected to the development of overuse injuries. In this article, the shock absorption of the heel pad as well as external shock absorbers are studied. Individual variation and the effect of trauma and confinement on the heel pad were specifically investigated. Drop tests, imitating heel impacts, were performed on a force plate. The test specimens were cadaver heel pads (n = 10); the shoe sole component consisted of ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA) foam and Sorbothane inserts. The shock absorption was significantly greater in the heel pad than in the external shock absorbers. The mean heel pad shock absorption was 1.1 times for EVA foam and 2.1 times for Sorbothane. The shock absorption varied by as much as 100% between heel pads. Trauma caused a decrease in the heel pad shock absorbency (24%), whereas heel pad confinement increased the shock absorbency (49% in traumatized heel pads and 29.5% in nontraumatized heel pads). These findings provide a biomechanical rationale for the clinical observations of a correlation between heel pad shock absorbency loss and heel strike-dependent overuse injuries. To increase shock absorbency, confinement of the heel pad should be attempted in vivo.
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