Where’s the foot?

foot pitch

Another comment from CMAS. I think it was Alison Richardson who was presenting at one point and remarked, “but of course we can’t tell where the foot is from the graphs”. How true? and why not? Conventionally in clinical gait analysis we plot where the pelvis is in relation to the lab, then the hip, knee and ankle joints. In theory if you know all this information you can work out the orientation of the foot. I don’t know anyone, however, who has developed the knack of adding all those angles up in their head to work this out. In understanding how the foot is contributing to that pattern I think Perry’s concept of foot rockers is key – is the limb pivoting primarily around the heel, the ankle or the MTP joint? Yet, despite what you hear in many discussions about gait data, it’s virtually impossible to tell from the graphs which rocker is active at ¬†any given time.

So why don’t we plot out foot orientation? We calculate the equivalent in the transverse plane and call it foot progression. I think it would make all our lives considerably easier if we added an extra graph at the foot of the sagittal plane data. Given that the pitch of a shoe is how much it tilts the foot forwards perhaps we should refer to this a “foot pitch”.

I’ve shown you what the sagittal graphs would then look like. I don’t suggest using the colours on the foot pitch graph – they are only there to show you how easily you can pick out the three rockers. During the red phase of stance the foot is pivoting about the heel – first rocker. During the white phase the foot is flat on the ground – second rocker. During the blue phase the foot is pivoting about the MTP joint (or toe) – third rocker (or third and fourth rockers if you want to use Perry and Burnfield’s most recent terminology (2010). Notice that end of first rocker does not coincide with opposite foot off but is completed appreciably earlier. Many people don’t appreciate just how early third rocker starts either.

Perry, J., & Burnfield, J. M. (2010). Gait analysis: normal and pathological function (2nd ed.). Pomona, California: Slack.