The biomechanical evaluation of patients with painful heels has received only limited attention although the potential morbidity and disability associated with such an ailment can be severe. An objective analysis of the patient's foot function during gait can produce useful information to assess the underlying pathology. This method can also help to evaluate the efficacy of various existing treatment protocols. The impulse distribution based on foot-floor vertical reaction force and time under the hind-, mid-, and forefoot was determined in 32 normal subjects while walking in their usual street shoes. Variations related to shoe types were noted, with high heeled shoes causing the most significant deviations from normal. The same technique was applied to 13 painful heel syndrome patients. Characteristic deviations from the normal impulse distribution were noted in these patients which provided the basis for differentiating the pathological condition between the patients with painful heel pads and those with plantar fasciitis. The effectiveness of using heel cups as a therapeutic device was also assessed. Although significant gait changes were not associated with the insertion of heel cups, they did seem to shift the foot-floor impulse forward from the heel region, which made them effective in patients afflicted with localized heel pain, but not in those with plantar fasciitis.
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