Early diagnosis for foot posture problems

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Foot posture can now be quickly and reliably identified.
Foot posture can now be quickly and reliably identified.

A recent study from La Trobe University’s Musculoskeletal Research Centre has found that foot posture can be quickly and reliably identified by using a simple carbon-paper imprint, which can work as an early diagnostic tool for foot problems.

Professor Hylton Menz and colleagues looked at over 600 footprints from people aged 62 to 96 years of age to visually measure the arch in older feet.

"This age group is at high risk of foot problems," Professor Menz said.

"Identifying a faster way to diagnose foot posture will help in early detection and also reduce the amount of equipment currently needed to categorise foot posture."

Participants in the study were asked to stand in a relaxed position on the carbon-paper imprint material.

A foot axis was then drawn from the centre of the heel to the tip of the second toe, and then the footprint divided into equal thirds excluding the toes.

The researchers examined the Arch Index (AI), which represents the ratio of the area of the middle of the footprint relative to the total foot area to categorise foot posture as high, normal and low—the lower the AI, the flatter the foot.

"Categorising the foot arch as high, normal or low using visual means through carbon paper imprint material has proven to produce almost perfect agreement between examiners," Professor Menz said.

"Currently many measurement approaches are not suitable for routine use as they are time-consuming or require specialised equipment and/or specialised clinical expertise.

"Making evaluation methods more simple for foot posture assessment will shorten what can be a lengthy process."

Measurement in foot posture is widely considered to be an important component of musculoskeletal examination in clinical practice and research.
"Variations in foot posture have been found to influence lower limp gait kinematics, muscle activity, balance and functional ability, and predisposition to overuse injury," Professor Menz said.

"Currently, the main drawback of the AI as a measure of foot posture is that it requires the use of a graphics tablet or optical scanner and imaging software in order to accurately calculate the footprint area, which takes time and therefore limits its application in many clinical and research settings."

The study—Visual categorisation of the arch index: a simplified measure of foot posture in older people—is available on request.

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