November 2020

3D Printed Insoles Offers New Hope for Patients with Diabetes

3D printed insoles can be adapted for individual patients to reduce the risk of foot ulcers. Image courtesy of Staffordshire University.

Scientists from Staffordshire University, England, claim that their new 3D-printed insoles can improve the foot health of people suffering with diabetes. Their study is said to present the first quantitative evidence in support of optimized cushioning in diabetic footwear as part of standard clinical practice. In their latest paper, “Optimised cushioning in diabetic footwear can significantly enhance their capacity to reduce plantar pressure,” published in Gait and Posture, the researchers conclude that selecting the correct cushioning stiffness in footwear can significantly reduce pressures experienced on the feet, which can lead to ulcers and other painful complications.

In the study carried out in Malta, 15 participants with diabetic foot disease were asked to walk in footwear fitted with made-to-measure 3D-printed insoles designed by the Centre for Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Technologies (CBRT) at Staffordshire University. These footbeds were used to change the stiffness of the entire sole across a spectrum of very soft to very stiff.

“The optimum stiffness is clearly related to the patient’s body mass index (BMI),” said Panagiotis Chatzistergos, PhD, associate professor at CBRT and the lead author of this study. “This study adds to our earlier findings and concludes that stiffer materials are needed for people with a higher BMI.”

Further work is now under way to develop a method to help professionals identify the optimum cushioning stiffness on a patient-specific basis.

Source: Chatzistergos PE, Gatt A, Formosa C, Farrugia K, Chockalingam N. Optimised cushioning in diabetic footwear can significantly enhance their capacity to reduce plantar pressure. Gait Posture. 2020;79:244-250.

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