OBJECTIVE:Biomechanical studies in diabetic neuropathy have clearly demonstrated abnormal foot pressures, but information on other aspects of gait is limited. This study aimed to investigate and describe the forces transmitted through the foot during walking in diabetic subjects with varying degrees of peripheral neuropathy and to determine if abnormalities in these forces might contribute to the risk of plantar ulceration. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS:Subjects from the following groups were included: healthy control subjects (C); diabetic control subjects (D); subjects with diabetic neuropathy (DN); subjects with previous neuropathic ulceration (DNU); and subjects with Charcot neuro-arthropathy (CH). Gait analysis was performed as subjects walked over a Kistler force plate. Peak forces were measured (as percent body weight) in the vertical and horizontal planes. Comparisons were made between all of the groups and between each diabetic group and a healthy control group matched for walking speed. RESULTS:There were 181 subjects studied. In comparison with that of the speed-matched controls, the mean peak vertical force was higher in each of the diabetic groups, especially in the most neuropathic subjects (DNU, 113 vs. 110%, P < 0.01). This increase was entirely due to higher forces during heel contact (DNU, 111 vs. 106%, P < 0.001). The single peak force occurred during heel strike (rather than during foot push-off) in 23-38% of footsteps of healthy and diabetic control subjects but in 53-73% of footsteps of neuropathic subjects. There was also a trend for higher peak medial forces (CH, 6.2 vs. 5.5%, P < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS:Diabetic neuropathy is associated with a change in the time pattern of the forces transmitted through the foot and an increase in the vertical forces through the heel. The magnitude of the changes is small in absolute terms, but these changes may contribute to the risk of plantar foot ulceration.