Three-dimensional foot shape analysis in children: a pilot analysis using three-dimensional shape descriptors

Matyas Varga, Carina Price, Stewart C. Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Existing clinical measures to describe foot morphology are limited in that they are commonly two-dimensional, low in resolution and accuracy, and do not accurately represent the multi-planar and complex changes during development across childhood. Using three-dimensional (3D) scanner technology provides the opportunity to understand more about morphological changes throughout childhood with higher resolution and potentially more relevant 3D shape measures. This is important to advance the prevailing arguments about the typical development of children’s feet and inform the development of appropriate clinical measures. 3D shape descriptors derived from 3D scanning can be used to quantify changes in shape at each point of the 3D surface. The aim of this study was to determine whether 3D shape descriptors derived from 3D scanning data can identify differences in foot morphology between children of different ages.

Fifteen children were recruited from three age groups (2, 5, and 7 years of age). Both feet were scanned in bipedal stance, using the Artec Eva (Artec Group, Luxembourg, Luxembourg) hand-held scanner. Three dimensional shape descriptors were extracted from the 3D scans of the right foot, to create histograms for each age group and heat maps of representative participants for comparison.

There were changes to the dorsal, medial and lateral surfaces of the feet with age. The surfaces became less round along with an increase in indented areas. This is supported by the heat maps which demonstrated that the surfaces of the anatomical landmarks (e.g. the malleoli and navicular tuberosity) became more rounded and protruding, with indented surfaces appearing around these landmarks. On the plantar surface, the concavity of the midfoot was evident and this concavity extended into the midfoot from the medial aspect as age increased.

The findings of this study indicated that with increasing age the foot becomes thinner in 3D, with bony architecture emerging, and the medial longitudinal arch (MLA) increases in area and concavity. Three-dimensional shape descriptors have shown good potential for locating and quantifying changes in foot structure across childhood. Three-dimensional shape descriptor data will be beneficial for understanding more about foot development and quantifying changes over time.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalJournal of Foot and Ankle Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


  • 3D scanning
  • Curvedness
  • Foot development
  • Foot morphology
  • Paediatric foot
  • Shape-index


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