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Foot pressure distribution during walking in young and old adults

Mary Josephine Hessert, Mitul Vyas, Jason Leach, Kun Hu, Lewis A Lipsitz and Vera Novak*

Author Affiliations

Division of Gerontology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Harvard Medical School, Boston 02215 MA, USA

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BMC Geriatrics 2005, 5:8  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-5-8

Published: 19 May 2005



Measurement of foot pressure distribution (FPD) is clinically useful for evaluation of foot and gait pathologies. The effects of healthy aging on FPD during walking are not well known. This study evaluated FPD during normal walking in healthy young and elderly subjects.


We studied 9 young (30 ± 5.2 years), and 6 elderly subjects (68.7 ± 4.8 years). FPD was measured during normal walking speed using shoe insoles with 99 capacitive sensors. Measured parameters included gait phase characteristics, mean and maximum pressure and force, and relative load.

Time-series measurements of each variable for all sensors were grouped into 9 anatomical masks.


Elderly subjects had lower normalized maximum pressure for the medial and lateral calcaneal masks, and for all medial masks combined. In the medial calcaneus mask, the elderly group also had a lower absolute maximum and lower mean and normalized mean pressures and forces, compared to young subjects. Elderly subjects had lower maximum force and normalized maximum force and lower mean force and normalized mean forces in the medial masks as well.


FPD differences between the young and elderly groups were confined to the calcaneus and hallux regions and to the medial side of the foot. In elderly subjects, weight bearing on the lateral side of the foot during heel touch and toe-off phases may affect stability during walking.