The Immediate Effect of Foot Orthoses on Subtalar Joint Mechanics and Energetics

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Abstract

Purpose

Foot orthoses maybe used in the management of musculoskeletal disorders related to abnormal subtalar joint (STJ) pronation. However, the precise mechanical benefits of foot orthoses for preventing injuries associated with the STJ are not well understood. The aim of this study was to investigate the immediate effect of foot orthoses on the energy absorption requirements of the STJ and subsequently tibialis posterior (TP) muscle function.

Methods

Eighteen asymptomatic subjects with a pes planus foot posture were prescribed custom-made foot orthoses made from a plaster cast impression. Participants walked at preferred and fast velocities barefoot, with athletic footwear and with athletic footwear plus orthoses, as three-dimensional motion capture, force data, and intramuscular electromyography of the TP muscle were simultaneously collected. Statistical parametric mapping was used to identify time periods across the stride cycle during which footwear with foot orthoses significantly differed to barefoot and footwear only.

Results

During early stance, footwear alone and footwear with orthoses significantly reduced TP muscle activation (1%–12%), supination moments (3%–21%), and energy absorption (5%–12%) at the STJ, but had no effect on STJ pronation displacement.

Conclusions

The changes in TP muscle activation and STJ energy absorption were primarily attributed to footwear because the addition of foot orthoses provided little additional effect. We speculate that these results are most likely a result of the compliant material properties of footwear. These results suggest that athletic footwear may be sufficient to absorb energy in the frontal plane and potentially reducing any benefit associated with the addition of foot orthoses.

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