A novel simplified biomechanical assessment of the heel pad during foot plantarflexion

Ukadike C. Ugbolue*, Emma L. Yates, Keir E. Rowland, Scott C. Wearing, Yaodong Gu, Wing Kai Lam, Julien Baker, Nicholas F. Sculthorpe, Frédéric Dutheil

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The heel pad (HP) which is located below the calcaneus comprises a composition of morphometrical and morphological arrangements of soft tissues that are influenced by factors such as gender, age and obesity. It is well known that HP pain and Achilles tendonitis consist of discomfort, pain and swelling symptoms that usually develop from excessive physical activities such as walking, jumping and running. The purpose of this study was to develop biomechanical techniques to evaluate the function and characteristics of the HP. Ten healthy participants (five males and five females) participated in this laboratory-based study, each performing a two-footed heel raise to mimic the toe-off phase during human locomotion. Twenty-six (3 mm) retroreflective markers were attached to the left and right heels (thirteen markers on each heel). Kinematic data was captured using three-dimensional motion analysis cameras synchronised with force plates. Descriptive and multivariate statistical tests were used in this study. In addition, a biomechanical technique that utilises only six markers from 26 markers to assess HP deformation and function has been developed and used in this study. Overall HP displacement was significantly higher in males on the most lateral part of the right heel (p < 0.05). No significant differences were evident when comparing the non-dominant and dominant heels during the baseline, unloading and loading phases (p > 0.05). Findings from this study suggested that biomechanical outputs expressed as derivatives from tracked HP marker movements can morphologically and morphometrically characterise HP soft tissue deformation changes. The outcome of this study highlights the importance of 3D motion analysis being used as a potential prospective intervention to quantify the function / characteristics of the heel pad soft tissues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-207
Number of pages11
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part H: Journal of Engineering in Medicine
Issue number2
Early online date5 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Mechanical Engineering

User-Defined Keywords

  • gait
  • heel pad
  • Heel raise
  • loading phase
  • marker displacement
  • toe-off
  • unloading phase


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