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Limb dominance, foot orientation and functional asymmetry during walking gait.

Abstract

While healthy gait is often characterized as, or assumed to be symmetric, consistent asymmetries often exist. In this study, we test the hypotheses that asymmetries in lower limb function, as measured by ground reaction force characteristics, may be explained by differences in foot orientation or limb dominance. Peak ground reaction force (GRF) measurements, and impulses were obtained for thirty-six healthy subjects with simultaneous kinematic estimates of foot posture. Three gait tasks were performed: subjects walked i) with normal foot orientation, ii) with feet laterally rotated (outward), and iii) with feet aligned in the direction of movement (straight). All subjects reported right limb dominance. Our results indicate that vertical, braking and propulsive GRF components are largely symmetrical, but significant asymmetries exist in the mediolateral peak forces and impulses with higher lateral and lower medially-directed GRF components being generated by the dominant right limbs. While foot orientations used during the different tasks do explain some differences in mediolateral peak forces and impulses, foot orientation did not explain this variation within normal walking. We conclude that limb dominance is a better predictor of asymmetry in force generation than foot posture.

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