Thanks to a successful collaboration between the Department of Podiatry at the University of Malta and the Centre for Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Technologies at Staffordshire University in the United Kingdom, diabetic people may get to wear more comfortable shoes in the near future.
The two entities worked together on the first quantitative evidence to support cushioning optimisation as part of standard clinical practice to treat diabetics.
In a paper published in Volume 79 of the journal Elsevier, titled ‘Optimised cushioning in diabetic footwear can significantly enhance their capacity to reduce plantar pressure’, they state that selecting the correct cushioning stiffness significantly improves pressure reduction according to the body weight of the person wearing the footwear.
Dr Alfred Gatt, Prof. Cynthia Formosa, and RSO Kurt Farrugia co-wrote the paper with Associate Prof. Chatzistergos and Prof. Chockalingam from Staffordshire University. Prof. Chockalingam is also an Affiliate Professor at the University of Malta.
They sought to prove this affirmation by measuring plantar pressure distribution during walking for 15 individuals with diabetic foot syndrome. In this cohort observational study, participants were asked to walk in footwear fitted with 3D-printed footbeds, and the footbeds were used to change the stiffness of the entire sole across a spectrum of very soft to very stiff.
By using Pearson correlation analysis, the researchers noted that patient-specific optimum stiffness is significantly correlated with the participant’s body mass index (BMI), with stiffer materials needed for people with a higher BMI.
“This study is just one example of how our research can be applied to improve the wellbeing of diabetics. We are very happy to be collaborating with our colleagues over at Staffordshire, and hope to keep generating interest in the podiatry profession among students, locally and abroad,” said Dr Alfred Gatt.
Dr Chatzistergos said: “it is rewarding to see your ideas being implemented for the benefit of patients. We are continuing our collaboration and we expect further results shortly”.
Further work is underway to develop a clinically applicable method to help professionals identify the optimum cushioning stiffness on a patient-specific basis.