Simplified versus geometrically accurate models of forefoot anatomy to predict plantar pressures: a finite element study

Scott Telfer*, Ahmet Erdemir, James Woodburn, Peter R. Cavanagh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Integration of patient-specific biomechanical measurements into the design of therapeutic footwear has been shown to improve clinical outcomes in patients with diabetic foot disease. The addition of numerical simulations intended to optimise intervention design may help to build on these advances, however at present the time and labour required to generate and run personalised models of foot anatomy restrict their routine clinical utility. In this study we developed second-generation personalised simple finite element (FE) models of the forefoot with varying geometric fidelities. Plantar pressure predictions from barefoot, shod, and shod with insole simulations using simplified models were compared to those obtained from CT-based FE models incorporating more detailed representations of bone and tissue geometry. A simplified model including representations of metatarsals based on simple geometric shapes, embedded within a contoured soft tissue block with outer geometry acquired from a 3D surface scan was found to provide pressure predictions closest to the more complex model, with mean differences of 13.3 kPa (SD 13.4), 12.52 kPa (SD 11.9) and 9.6 kPa (SD 9.3) for barefoot, shod, and insole conditions respectively. The simplified model design could be produced in <1 h compared to >3 h in the case of the more detailed model, and solved on average 24% faster. FE models of the forefoot based on simplified geometric representations of the metatarsal bones and soft tissue surface geometry from 3D surface scans may potentially provide a simulation approach with improved clinical utility, however further validity testing around a range of therapeutic footwear types is required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-294
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number2
Early online date11 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2016


  • foot
  • orthotics
  • diabetes
  • plantar pressure predictions


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