Background: Walking mechanics are influenced by body morphology. Foot arch height is one aspect of body morphology central to walking. However, generalizations about the relationship between arch height and walking are limited due to previous methodologies used for measuring the arch and the populations that have been studied. To gain the knowledge needed to support healthy gait in children and adults, we need to understand this relationship in unimpaired, typically developing children and adults using dynamic measures. The purpose of the current study was to examine the relationship between arch height and gait in a sample of healthy children and adults using dynamic measures.
Methods: Data were collected from 638 participants (n = 254 children and n = 384 adults) at the Museum of Science, Boston (MOS) and from 18 4- to 8-year-olds at the Motor Development and Motor Control Laboratories. Digital footprints were used to calculate two arch indices: the Chippaux-Smirak (CSI) and the Keimig Indices (KI). The height of the navicular bone was measured. Gait parameters were captured with a mechanized gait carpet at the MOS and three-dimensional motion analyses and in-ground force plates in the Motor Development and Motor Control Laboratories.
Results: Linear regression analyses on data from the MOS confirmed that as age increases, step length increases. With a linear mixed effect regression model, we found that individuals who took longer steps had higher arches as measured by the KI. However, this relationship was no longer significant when only adults were included in the model. A model restricted to children found that amongst this sample, those with higher CSI and higher KI values take longer relative step lengths. Data from the Motor Development and Motor Control Laboratories showed that both CSI and KI added to the prediction; children with lower anterior ground reaction forces had higher CSI and higher KI values. Arch height indices were correlated with navicular height.
Conclusions: These results suggest that more than one measure of the arch may be needed elucidate the relationship between arch height and gait.