Kinematic coupling between the first metatarsophalangeal (MTP) and midtarsal joints is evident during gait and other movement tasks, however kinetic foot coupling during walking has not been examined. Furthermore, contributing factors to foot coupling are still unclear. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate kinematic and kinetic coupling within the foot by restricting MTP motion during overground walking. We hypothesized that when the MTP joint was prevented from fully extending, the midtarsal joint would achieve less peak motion and generate less positive work compared to walking with normal MTP motion.
Twenty-six individuals participated in this randomized cross-over study. Using motion capture to track motion, participants walked at 1.3 m/s while wearing a brace that restricted MTP motion in a neutral (BR_NT) or extended (BR_EX) position. Additionally, participants walked while wearing the brace in a freely moveable setting (BR_UN) and with no brace (CON). A pressure/shear sensing device was used to capture forces under each foot segment. During stance, peak joint motion and work were calculated for the MTP and midtarsal joints using inverse dynamics. A series of ANOVAs and Holm post hoc tests were performed for all metrics (alpha = 0.05).
The brace successfully decreased peak MTP motion by 19% compared to BR_UN and CON. This was coupled with 9.8% less midtarsal motion. Kinetically, the work absorbed by the MTP joint (26–51%) and generated by the midtarsal joint (30–38%) were both less in BR_EX and BR_NT compared to BR_UN.
Implications and sources of coupling between the MTP and midtarsal joints are discussed within the context of center of pressure shifts and changes to segmental foot forces. Our results suggest that interventions aimed at modulating MTP negative work (such as footwear or assistive device design) should not ignore the midtarsal joint.