Plantar pressures and relative lesser metatarsal lengths in older people with and without forefoot pain Academic Article uri icon


  • Forefoot pain is a common problem in older people. We determined whether plantar pressures during gait and the relative lengths of the lesser metatarsals differ between older people with and without plantar forefoot pain. Dynamic plantar pressure assessment during walking was undertaken using the Tekscan MatScan® system in 118 community-dwelling older people (44 males and 74 females), mean age 74 (standard deviation=5.9) years, 43 (36%) of whom reported current or previous plantar forefoot pain. The relative lengths of metatarsals 1-5 were determined from weightbearing X-rays. Participants with current or previous plantar forefoot pain exhibited significantly (p=0.032) greater peak plantar pressure under metatarsal heads 3-5 (1.93 ± 0.41 kg/cm(2) vs. 1.74 ± 0.48 kg/cm(2) ). However, no differences were found in relative metatarsal lengths between the groups. These findings indicate that older people with forefoot pain generate higher peak plantar pressures under the lateral metatarsal heads when walking, but do not exhibit relatively longer lesser metatarsals. Other factors may be responsible for the observed pressure increase, such as reduced range of motion of the metatarsophalangeal joints and increased stiffness of plantar soft tissues.

publication date

  • March 2013