The effect of support surface and footwear condition on postural sway and lower limb muscle action of the older women

Meizhen Huang, Kit Lun Yick, Sun Pui Ng, Joanne Yip, Roy Tsz Hei Cheung

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Background Diminished somatosensory function is a critical age-related change which is related to postural instability in the older population. Footwear is a cost-effective way to modulate the postural stability by altering sensorimotor inputs via mechanoreceptors on the plantar surface of the feet. Compared to insoles with indentions in the entire surface, we innovatively developed a textured insole with site-specific nodulous protrudous. This study thus aimed to investigate the immediate effect of the nodulous insole and supporting surface condition on static postural stability and lower limb muscle activation for healthy older women. Methods This is a single-session study with repeated measurements. Twenty-three healthy older women stood on the firm (i.e., concrete floor) and foam surfaces with their eyes open in the three footwear conditions, namely barefoot, plain shoes and shoes with an innovative textured insole, for 30 seconds. Static postural sway and muscle activation of biceps femoris (BF), vastus lateralis (VL), tibialis anterior (TA), and lateral gastrocnemius (LG) of the dominant leg were measured during each testing condition. Results Compared to a firm surface, standing on the foam could significantly increase the body sway and lower limb muscle activation (p<0.05). When standing on the foam, compared to barefoot, wearing footwear significantly decreased the VL and TA muscle activation and minimize the postural sway in medial-lateral and anterior-posterior direction, while the influence is larger for the shoes with nodulous insloe compared to the plain shoes. No significant differences between the footwear conditions for static stability and muscle activation were observed on firm surface condition. Conclusions For older women, footwear could improve the postural stability in the unstable surface, particularly the footwear with nodulous insole, with the underlying mechanism as enhancing the mechanoreceptors on the plantar surface of the feet.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0234140
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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