Background: Plantar pressure assessment can provide information pertaining to the dynamic loading of the foot, as well as information specific to each region in contact with the ground. There have been few studies which have considered the reliability of plantar pressure data and therefore the purpose of this study was to investigate the reliability of assessing plantar pressure variables in a group of typically developing children, during barefoot level walking.
Methods: Forty-five participants, aged 7 to 11 years, were recruited from local primary and secondary schools in East London. Data from three walking trials were collected at both an initial and re-test session, taken one week apart, to determine both the within- and between-session reliability of selected plantar pressure variables. The variables of peak pressure, peak force, pressure-time and force-time integrals were extracted for analysis in the following seven regions of the foot; lateral heel, medial heel, midfoot, 1st metatarsophalangeal joint, 2nd-5th metatarsophalangeal joint, hallux and the lesser toes. Reliability of the data were explored using Intra Class Correlation Coefficients (ICC 3,1 and 3,2) and variability with Coefficients of Variation (CoV's).
Results: The measurements demonstrated moderate to good levels of within-session reliability across all segments of the foot (0.69-0.93), except the lesser toes, which demonstrated poor reliability (0.17-0.50). CoV's across the three repeated trials ranged from 10.12-19.84% for each of the measured variables across all regions of the foot, except the lesser toes which demonstrated the greatest variability within trials (27.15-56.08%). The between-session results demonstrated good levels of reliability across all foot segments (0.79-0.99) except the lesser toes; with moderate levels of reliability reported at this region of the foot (0.58-0.68). The CoV's between-sessions demonstrated that the midfoot (16.41-36.23%) and lesser toe region (29.64-56.61) demonstrated the greatest levels of variability across all the measured variables.
Conclusions: These findings indicate that using the reported protocols, reliable plantar pressure data can be collected in children, aged 7 to 11 years in all regions of the foot except the lesser toes which consistently reported poor-to-moderate levels of reliability and increased variability.