The influence of textured footwear on postural control and balance in elderly individuals

Project Number
RI 8/13 CJY

Project Duration
July 2014 - June 2016


Falls are a common public health problem for elderly individual and is the fifth leading cause of death (Kannus et al., 2005). Importantly, an understanding of the epidemiology of falling especially in elderly individuals in Singapore can provide insights on how to reduce such fall incidences. In relation to sensor regulation and movement control, researchers have found that footwear increases somatosensory feedback, which increases balance/postural control by reducing postural sway (Orth, et al., 2013; Sungkarat et al., 2011). Among all the footwear studied, socks have not yet received attention in research although they are the common footwear in daily living. To date, research on socks has been found in few areas - prevention of foot lesion such as blisters, ulcers, calluses and sores (Dai et al., Cheung, 2006); biomechanical response in walking and running (Tsai & Lin, 2013); slip and fall (Hȕbscher, et al., 2011). However, research in the role of socks in somatosensory function is scarce. The purposes of this study are to i) determine the epidemiology of falling and basic background information such as medical conditions, balance ability and cognitive functions of Singapore elderly population and ii) investigate the role of compression socks on somatosensory function in static and dynamic balancing locomotion tasks. It is predicted that better postural stability will be achieved by wearing clinical compression socks as they will enhance the plantar cutaneous sensation, providing information that can help decrease postural sway. For Phase 1, a questionnaire (Fallproof Health and Activity), a cognitive test (Mini-Mental State Examination) and the Berg Balance Test will be administered to 384 participants to establish descriptive data about the epidemiology of falling among elderly Singaporeans. In Phase 2, a repeated measures study design will subsequently be used where 22 elderly individuals will undergo three conditions (barefoot, generic socks and customised socks), in counterbalanced order, while performing static and dynamic balancing and locomotion tasks. For the static task, participants will be required to maintain an upright static stance on dominant leg for 30 seconds in two vision conditions (vision; without vision). Participants will then perform a dynamic task – walking and stepping on a step board with vision. Findings from this study will provide new insights into footwear effects. In particular, the mechanisms by which textured compression socks enhance plantar cutaneous sensation and therefore the potential for such textured footwear to reduce falls in the elderly.

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