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Keith A. Stern and Jinger S. Gottschall

The purpose of our study was to determine if altering the insoles within footwear or walking barefoot, as an attempt to increase or decrease cutaneous stimuli, would improve dynamic balance during a hill-walking task. We hypothesize that compared with foam insoles or iced bare feet, textured insoles or bare feet will result in greater speeds, longer step lengths, narrower step width, shorter stance time, and less tibialis anterior (TA), soleus (SOL), and lateral gastrocnemius (LG) activity during key gait cycle phases. Ten, healthy college students, 5 men and 5 women, completed the protocol that consisted of level walking and downhill transition walking in five different footwear insole or barefoot conditions. During level walking, conditions with the hypothesized greater cutaneous stimuli resulted in greater step length, which relates to a more stable gait. In detail, the texture insole condition average step length was 3% longer than the regular insole condition, which was 5% longer than the ice condition (p < .01). The same signals of increased stability were evident during the more challenging downhill transition stride. Step length during the barefoot condition was 8% longer than the ice condition (p < .05) and step width during the regular footwear condition was 5% narrower than the foam condition (p = .05). To add, during the preswing phase of level walking, TA activity of the textured insole condition was 30% less than the foam insole. Although our data show that footwear conditions alter gait patterns and lower leg muscle activity during walking, there is not enough evidence to support the hypothesis that textured insoles will improve dynamic balance as compared with other footwear types.

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Jinger S. Gottschall, Dmitri Y. Okorokov, Noriaki Okita and Keith A. Stern

Healthy young adults transition between level and hill surfaces of various angles while walking at fluctuating speeds. These surface transitions have the potential to decrease dynamic balance in both the anterior-posterior and medial-lateral directions. Hence, the purpose of the current study was to analyze modifications in temporal-spatial parameters during hill walking transitions. We hypothesized that in comparison with level walking, the transition strides would indicate the adoption of a distinct gait strategy with a greater base of support. Thirty-four participants completed level and hill trials on a walkway with a 15-degree portable ramp apparatus. We collected data during 4 transition strides between level and ramp surfaces. In support of our hypothesis, compared with level walking, the base of support was 20% greater during 3 out of the 4 transition strides. In short, our results illustrate that healthy young adults did adopt a distinct gait strategy different from both level and hill walking during transitions strides.