DOI: 10.1101/510990Jan 3, 2019Paper

Rigid Foot Soles Improve Balance in Beam Walking

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Meghan E HuberDagmar Sternad


Maintaining balance while walking on a narrow beam is a challenging motor task. This is presumably because the foot's ability to exert torque on the support surface is limited by the beam width. Still, the feet serve as a critical interface between the body and the external environment, and it is unclear how the mechanical properties of the feet affect balance. Here we examined how restricting the degrees of freedom of the feet influenced balance behavior during beam walking. We recorded whole-body joint kinematics of subjects with varying skill levels as they walked on a narrow beam with and without wearing flat, rigid soles on their feet. We computed changes in whole-body motion and angular momentum across these conditions. Results showed that wearing rigid soles improved balance in the beam walking task, but that practice with rigid soles did not affect or transfer to task performance with bare feet. The absence of any after-effect suggested that the improved balance from constraining the foot was the result of a mechanical effect rather than a change in neural strategy. Though wearing rigid soles can be used to assist balance, there appear to be limited training or rehabilitation benefits from wearing rigid soles.

Related Concepts

Rehabilitation Therapy
Research Subject
Pleuronichthys coenosus
Surface of Foot

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