Gait Lab Study set to Uncover how the Shoes we Wear Affect the Way we Walk

Rory Curtis, a 2cnd year PhD student within the EMB group is currently finishing up a 6 month longitudinal footwear study using the gait lab to characterise both, key footwear properties as well as participant biomechanics. The results of which will shed new light on the influence mechanical and spatial properties of footwear have on the users gait performance and musculoskeletal health.

50 participants (30 male, 20 female; 27.6 ± 6.9 years) were recruited and tested at the start of the 6 month period. After the initial gait lab tests, participants were instructed to either, wear the shoes they usually would before returning back to the gait lab after 6 months had passed (control group), or wear specially assigned minimal footwear for the vast majority of the 6 month period (intervention group). Minimal footwear was assigned to the intervention participants as it is a special kind of footwear providing minimal interference with the natural movement of the foot due to its high flexibility, low heel to toe drop, weight and stack height, and the absence of motion control and stability devices (Sinclair, Hobbs et al. 2013). This makes minimal footwear the closest thing to walking barefoot while still having all the practical protection required for walking around in the modern world. Intervention participants were all given Vivobarefoot Stealth II’s as their minimal footwear, and can be seen in Figure 1.


Figure 1: Lateral view of Vivobarefoot Stealth II left shoe. Image source:

Both initial and final gait lab studies followed the same procedures. Participants would have key biometrics recorded as well as measurements on the footwear they brought in on the day. Then kinematic analysis would be performed while participants walked barefoot, conventionally shod and minimally shod. In order to conduct the kinematic analysis, participants were marked up with kinematic markers at key anatomical land sites and can be seen in Figure 2.



Figure 2: Left to right: Anterior, Left, Posterior and Right view of a marked up participant in the barefoot condition.

Five trials were recorded for each condition, where participants walked over a Kistler force plates at a self-selected pace. The video’s below show the trail in live action as well as the raw data recorded by the kinematic system (Qualysis).



All participants have completed their initial gait lab tests and are currently returning to the gait lab for their final gait lab tests. Once all of the tests have been completed, the kinematic data from before and after the 6 month period will be analysed in order to understand the influence footwear has on our gait performance and even our musculoskeletal health!

Sinclair, J., et al. (2013). “A comparison of several barefoot inspired footwear models in relation to barefoot and conventional running footwear.” Comparative Exercise Physiology 9(1): 13-21.

Rory Curtis


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