Development of the infant foot as a load bearing structure: study protocol for a longitudinal evaluation (the Small Steps study)

Carina Price, Juliet McClymont, Farina Hashmi, Stewart C. Morrison, Christopher Nester

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Abstract

Background
An improved understanding of the structural and functional development of the paediatric foot is fundamental to a strong theoretical framework for health professionals and scientists. An infant’s transition from sitting, through crawling and cruising, to walking is when the structures and function of the foot must adapt to bearing load. The adaptation of skin and other hard and soft tissue, and foot and gait biomechanics, during this time is poorly understood. This is because data characterising the foot tissue and loading pre-walking onset does not exist. Of the existing kinematic and plantar pressure data, few studies have collected data which reflects the real-life activities of infants with modern equipment.

Methods
This is a longitudinal study and part of the Great Foundations Initiative, a collaborative project between the University of Brighton and the University of Salford, which is seeking to improve foot health in children. Two cohorts of 50 infants will be recruited at the two sites (University of Brighton, Eastbourne, UK and University of Salford, Salford, UK). Infants will be recruited when they first reach for their feet and attend four laboratory visits at milestones related to foot loading, with experienced independent walking being the final milestone. Data collection will include tissue characteristics (skin thickness, texture, elasticity, pH and tendon thickness and cross-sectional area), plantar pressures and kinematics captured during real world locomotion tasks.

Discussion
This study will provide a database characterising the development of the infant foot as it becomes a weight bearing structure. The data will allow effective comparison and quantification of changes in structure and function due to maturation and loading by measuring pre and post established walking. Additional variables which impact on the development of the foot (gender, ethnicity and body weight) will also be factored into our analysis. This will help us to advance understanding of the determinants of foot development in early childhood.
Original languageEnglish
Article number33
JournalJournal of Foot and Ankle Research
Volume11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2018

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