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Falls are a serious healthcare problem among older adults. Foot problems are one of the factors that can increase the risk of falling. My research program is targeted at understanding how foot problems affect an individual's balance. In order to isolate the underlying factors that may impair balance, I have identified three specific areas that most foot problems can be categorized into sensation from the bottom of the foot, foot mechanics and foot pain. Problems that exhibit characteristics in any of these areas can potentially affect how an individual is able to detect that they are out of balance and can also affect how successfully they can produce a balance reaction in response to becoming unstable.

The focus of this pilot project is to build and test an experimental setup to simulate gait over uneven terrain. Initially, slightly inclined platforms will be constructed and placed at each foot contact position, during walking, to simulate variations in surface orientation (e.g. uneven sidewalks). Then a population of healthy young adult individuals will be tested to determine the effect of the uneven terrain on their balance control during gait.

This experimental setup will be a critical component of future work in the evaluation of the postural control system to prevent falls in older adults.

Funded by a Wilfrid Laurier University Post-Doctoral Fellowship Award.