BMC Geriatrics (Nov 2022)

Barefoot walking is more stable in the gait of balance recovery in older adults

  • Xiping Ren,
  • Maeruan Kebbach,
  • Sven Bruhn,
  • Qining Yang,
  • Huijie Lin,
  • Rainer Bader,
  • Thomas Tischer,
  • Christoph Lutter

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 22, no. 1
pp. 1 – 9


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Abstract Background Perturbation-based balance training on a treadmill is an emerging method of gait stability training with a characteristic task nature that has had positive and sustained effects on balance recovery strategies and fall reduction. Little is known about the effects produced by shod and barefoot walking. We aimed to investigate which is more appropriate, shod or barefoot walking, for perturbation-based balance training in older adults. Methods Fourteen healthy older adults (age: 68.29 ± 3.41 years; body height: 1.76 ± 0.10 m; body mass: 81.14 ± 14.52 kg) performed normal and trip-like perturbed walking trials, shod and barefoot, on a treadmill of the Gait Real-time Analysis Interactive Lab. The marker trajectories data were processed by Human Body Model software embedded in the Gait Offline Analysis Tool. The outcomes of stride length variability, stride time variability, step width variability, and swing time variability were computed and statistically analyzed by a two-way repeated-measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) based on gait pattern (normal gait versus perturbed recovery gait) and footwear condition (shod versus barefoot). Results Footwear condition effect (p = 0.0310) and gait pattern by footwear condition interaction effect (p = 0.0055) were only observed in swing time variability. Gait pattern effects were detected in all four outcomes of gait variability. Conclusions Swing time variability, independent of gait speed, could be a valid indicator to differentiate between footwear conditions. The lower swing time variability in perturbed recovery gait suggests that barefoot walking may be superior to shod walking for perturbation-based balance training in older adults.