OBJECTIVE

This study investigated the effects of vibrating insoles on dynamic balance and gait quality during level and stair walking and explored the influence of vibration type and frequency in individuals with diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN).

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS

Twenty-two men with DPN were assessed for gait quality and postural and dynamic balance during walking and stair negotiation using a motion capture system and force plates across seven vibratory insole conditions (Vcs) versus a control (Ctrl) condition (insole without vibration). Vibration was applied during standing and walking tasks, and 15-min rest-stop periods without vibration were interposed between conditions. Repeated measures test conditions were randomized. The primary outcomes were gait speed and dynamic balance.

RESULTS

Gait speed during walking significantly improved in all Vcs compared with Ctrl (P < 0.005), with Vc2, Vc4, and Vc6 identified as the most effective. Gait speed increased (reflecting faster walking) during stair ascent and descent in Vc2 (Ctrl vs. Vc2 for ascent 0.447 ± 0.180 vs. 0.517 ± 0.127 m/s; P = 0.037 and descent 0.394 ± 0.170 vs. 0.487 ± 0.125 m/s; P = 0.016), Vc4 (Ctrl vs. Vc4 for ascent 0.447 ± 0.180 vs. 0.482 ± 0.197 m/s; P = 0.047 and descent 0.394 ± 0.170 vs. 0.438 ± 0.181 m/s; P = 0.017), and Vc6 (Ctrl vs. Vc6 for ascent 0.447 ± 0.180 vs. 0.506 ± 0.179 m/s; P = 0.043 and descent 0.394 ± 0.170 vs. 0.463 ± 0.159 m/s; P = 0.026). Postural balance improved during quiet standing with eyes closed in Vc2, Vc4, Vc6, and Vc7 (P < 0.005).

CONCLUSIONS

Vibrating insoles are an effective acute strategy for improving postural balance and gait quality during level walking and stair descent in individuals with DPN. These benefits are particularly evident when the entire plantar foot surface is stimulated.

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