Background:The area beneath the metatarsal heads is a common location of foot pain, which is often associated with high plantar pressures. Current plantar pressure assessment protocols focus mainly on the gross area of the forefoot with minimal attention paid to specific areas such as the metatarsal heads. The aim of this study was to develop and assess a new anatomically-based masking protocol that is clinically relevant to measure forefoot plantar pressure during shod conditions based on the anatomical positions of the metatarsal heads. Methods:Initially, we developed a masking protocol to measure forefoot plantar pressure during shod conditions based on the anatomical positions of the metatarsal heads. This new masking protocol divided the forefoot into three sub-areas (proximal, beneath, and distal to the metatarsal heads) as determined by the position of each metatarsal head. Following development of the new masking protocol, we compared the new protocol against a traditional protocol, which defines the forefoot as between 51 and 81% of the foot length. To compare the two masking protocols, we tested two experimental conditions: (i) a control condition (i.e. no metatarsal pad), and (ii) a metatarsal pad condition. We then compared plantar pressure differences between the two experimental conditions for the two masking protocols. Participants for this component of the study included 36 community dwelling older adults (mean age 75.6 years ±5.4) with a history of forefoot pain. Forefoot plantar pressure data were measured while walking using the pedar®-X in-shoe system. Peak pressure, maximum force and contact area at the time of peak pressure were determined and results were compared between the two masking protocols. Results:The traditional masking protocol showed that the metatarsal pad significantly decreased peak pressure and increased contact area in the forefoot area (i.e. within the entire mask area), but maximum force was not significantly different between the two conditions. In contrast, the newly developed anatomically-based masking protocol indicated that the metatarsal pad decreased peak plantar pressures distal to and beneath the metatarsal heads by increasing force and contact area proximal to the metatarsal heads. Conclusions:An anatomically-based masking protocol that is clinically relevant was developed to assess forefoot plantar pressure during shod conditions based on the anatomical positions of metatarsal heads. We propose that the new forefoot masking protocol will provide greater interpretability of forefoot plantar pressure data, which will aid clinicians and researchers for diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic purposes.