Three-dimensional finite element analysis of the foot during standing - A material sensitivity study

Jason Tak Man Cheung, Ming Zhang, Kam Lun Leung, Yu Bo Fan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

373 Citations (Scopus)


Information on the internal stresses/strains in the human foot and the pressure distribution at the plantar support interface under loading is useful in enhancing knowledge on the biomechanics of the ankle-foot complex. While techniques for plantar pressure measurements are well established, direct measurement of the internal stresses/strains is difficult. A three-dimensional (3D) finite element model of the human foot and ankle was developed using the actual geometry of the foot skeleton and soft tissues, which were obtained from 3D reconstruction of MR images. Except the phalanges that were fused, the interaction among the metatarsals, cuneiforms, cuboid, navicular, talus, calcaneus, tibia and fibula were defined as contact surfaces, which allow relative articulating movement. The plantar fascia and 72 major ligaments were simulated using tension-only truss elements by connecting the corresponding attachment points on the bone surfaces. The bony and ligamentous structures were embedded in a volume of soft tissues. The encapsulated soft tissue was defined as hyperelastic, while the bony and ligamentous structures were assumed to be linearly elastic. The effects of soft tissue stiffening on the stress distribution of the plantar surface and bony structures during balanced standing were investigated. Increases of soft tissue stiffness from 2 and up to 5 times the normal values were used to approximate the pathologically stiffened tissue behaviour with increasing stages of diabetic neuropathy. The results showed that a five-fold increase in soft tissue stiffness led to about 35% and 33% increase in the peak plantar pressure at the forefoot and rearfoot regions, respectively. This corresponded to about 47% decrease in the total contact area between the plantar foot and the horizontal support surface. Peak bone stress was found at the third metatarsal in all calculated cases with a minimal increase of about 7% with soft tissue stiffening.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1045-1054
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2005


  • Ankle
  • Foot model
  • Plantar pressure
  • Soft tissue stiffness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Rehabilitation


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