OBJECTIVE: Soldiers' lower limbs and feet are frequently affected by overload- and overuse-related injuries. In order to prevent or limit the incidence of these injuries, the use of foot orthoses is often recommended. The aim of this study is to assess the effects of shock-absorbing insoles on in-shoe plantar pressure magnitude and distribution in a group of professional infantry soldiers wearing military boots during standard indoor military training.
METHODS: Twenty male professional soldiers of the Italian Army (age 35.1 ± 6.1 years; BMI 25.2 ± 2.3 kg/m2) were recruited for this study. Each subject underwent clinical examination to assess possible overuse-related diseases of the lower limb and trunk. Subjects with altered foot morphology according to the Foot Posture Index (FPI) were excluded from this study. Twelve subjects were considered eligible and therefore underwent an indoor training routine comprised of marching, running, jumping inside parallel bars and jumping from different heights. Soldiers repeated the training session twice wearing standard military boots along with two types of insoles: the standard prefabricated insole within the boots (STI), and a special shock-absorbing insole (SAI) featuring an elastic medial arch support. A 99-capacitive sensor insole system was used to record plantar pressure distribution in both feet. Analysis of in-shoe pressure parameters at rearfoot, midfoot and forefoot and in the total foot was performed via a custom-software application developed in MATLAB. Perceived foot comfort (VAS 0-15) was also assessed.
RESULTS: Pressure parameters recorded during walking and running were considered suitable for statistical analysis. In the whole foot region, pressure parameters were 18-22% lower in military boots fitted with the SAI during walking and 14-18% lower during running. SAI resulted in better comfort (+25%) with respect to the prefabricated boot orthotics (median comfort: SAI = 15/15; STI = 12/15; p = 0.0039) both during walking and running.
CONCLUSIONS: Shock-absorbing insoles can be an effective solution when fitted inside military boots. The present functional evaluation shows that wearing a prefabricated shock-absorbing insole can provide a significant amelioration of perceived foot comfort and plantar pressure parameters. Further studies are now needed with a larger population and more demanding exercises.