Local dynamic stability (stability) quantifies how a system responds to small perturbations. Several experimental and clinical findings have highlighted the association between gait stability and fall risk. Walking without shoes is known to slightly modify gait parameters. Barefoot walking may cause unusual sensory feedback to individuals accustomed to shod walking, and this may affect stability. The objective was therefore to compare the stability of shod and barefoot walking in healthy individuals and to analyze the intrasession repeatability. Forty participants traversed a 70 m indoor corridor wearing normal shoes in one trial and walking barefoot in a second trial. Trunk accelerations were recorded with a 3D-accelerometer attached to the lower back. The stability was computed using the finite-time maximal Lyapunov exponent method. Absolute agreement between the forward and backward paths was estimated with the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC). Barefoot walking did not significantly modify the stability as compared with shod walking (average standardized effect size: +0.11). The intrasession repeatability was high (ICC: 0.73–0.81) and slightly higher in barefoot walking condition (ICC: 0.81–0.87). Therefore, it seems that barefoot walking can be used to evaluate stability without introducing a bias as compared with shod walking, and with a sufficient reliability.
Philippe Terrier and Fabienne Reynard are each with the Institute for Research in Rehabilitation, Sion, Switzerland, and the Clinique romande de réadaptation SUVACare, Sion, Switzerland. Address author correspondence to Philippe Terrier at Philippe.Terrier@crr-suva.ch.