Pressures under the foot during level walking were measured in 15 healthy young adults (8 females, 7 males, mean age 25.7, S.D. 5.3) before and after immersing the feet in ice-cold water (2 degrees C) for 30 min to evaluate the role of plantar insensitivity on gait patterns. Following ice water immersion, there was a significant decrease in walking speed. Maximum forces and peak pressures under the foot decreased, with the exception of an increase in loading under the third to fifth metatarsal heads. Contact times increased under all regions of the foot, and force-time and pressure-time integrals increased under the second and third to fifth metatarsal head regions. It is concluded that plantar insensitivity significantly alters the distribution, duration, and to a lesser extent, the magnitude of forces and pressures under the foot when walking. These results suggest that in the neuropathic foot, gait changes caused by plantar insensitivity may be partly responsible for the redistribution and altered duration of loading, whereas the increase in the magnitude of forces and pressures are primarily due to other disease-related factors.