Comprehensive biomechanical characterization of feet in USMA cadets: Comparison across race, gender, arch flexibility, and foot types

Lower extremity musculoskeletal injuries are common, complex, and costly problems. Literature supports associations between static foot structure and dynamic foot function, as well as between overuse injury and demographic characteristics. Previous studies failed to provide a comprehensive biomechanical foot characteristics of at-risk military personnel. In this study, foot structure, function, and arch height flexibility (AHF) were objectively measured in 1090 incoming cadets (16.3% female, mean age of 18.5 years and BMI of 24.5 kg/m2) of the United States Military Academy at the start of their training. A Generalized Linear Model with an identity link function was used to examine the effects of race, gender, foot types, and AHF while accounting for potential dependence in bilateral data. Planus and flexible feet independently demonstrated over-pronation, as measured by reduced Center of Pressure Excursion Index (CPEI). When comparing across race, Black participants showed a significantly lower arch height index (AHI), a larger malleolar valgus index (MVI), and a higher prevalence of pes planus (91.7% versus 73.3% overall). However, Asian participants with flexible arches, rather than Black with low arch, displayed over-pronation in gait. Females showed no significant difference in standing AHI and MVI but demonstrated a significantly greater AHF and a reduced CPEI than male participants. This was the first large scale investigation that comprehensively characterized biomechanical foot in a cohort of young at-risk individuals with lower limb musculoskeletal injuries. Long-term goal is to examine the relationship between these biomechanical features and injuries, ultimately to develop effective preventive measures.
Foot type biomechanics, Arch height index, Arch height flexibility, Dynamic plantar pressure, Center of pressure excursion index, Military personnel
Song et al., “Comprehensive Biomechanical Characterization of Feet in USMA Cadets.” 2018.