Barefoot Training and its Effects on Balance, Proprioception, and Stability in Adults 65 and Older

Faculty Mentor(s)

Professor Stein Slette, Hope College

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Proprioception is one’s awareness of their body and limbs in relation to their surroundings. Balance and proprioception are key components of not only athleticism, but everyday function and injury prevention in the general population. With age, there is a marked decline in lower extremity strength, balance, and proprioception. Linked to this is an increased fall risk in the elderly population. Research has found that impaired stability (a combination of proprioception and balance) is one of the most prevalent causes of falls. Research has also found, however, that stability focused exercise interventions are effective in improving balance and proprioception, therefore reducing fall related injuries. Recently, barefoot training has increased in popularity.There is limited research available on the topic of barefoot running and virtually no research that looks at how proprioception and balance are affected by barefoot training. The present study was designed to determine if barefoot training is more effective than shod training at improving balance, proprioception, and stability in active, senior adults. Participants were assigned to one of three groups: barefoot training, shod training, or control. The barefoot training and shod training groups participated in 7 weeks of twice-weekly training which focused on balance and stability, as well as lower extremity and core strengthening. At the beginning and end of the 7-week period, all participants underwent balance testing using an AMTI AccuSway Balance Platform. This data will be used to determine whether shod or unshod training is more effective at improving balance and stability in the elderly population.

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