Greater toe grip and gentler heel strike are the strategies to adapt to slippery surface

This study investigated the plantar pressure distribution during gait on wooden surface with different slipperiness in the presence of contaminants. Fifteen Chinese males performed 10 walking trials on a 5-m wooden walkway wearing cloth shoe in four contaminated conditions (dry, sand, water, oil). A pressure insole system was employed to record the plantar pressure data at 50 Hz. Peak pressure and time-normalized pressure-time integral were evaluated in nine regions. In comparing walking on slippery to non-slippery surfaces, results showed a 30% increase of peak pressure beneath the hallux (from 195.6 to 254.1 kPa), with a dramatic 79% increase in the pressure time integral beneath the hallux (from 63.8 to 114.3 kPa) and a 34% increase beneath the lateral toes (from 35.1 to 47.2 kPa). In addition, the peak pressure beneath the medial and lateral heel showed significant 20–24% reductions, respectively (from 233.6–253.5 to 204.0–219.0 kPa). These findings suggested that greater toe grip and gentler heel strike are the strategies to adapt to slippery surface. Such strategies plantarflexed the ankle and the metatarsals to achieve a flat foot contact with the ground, especially at heel strike, in order to shift the ground reaction force to a more vertical direction. As the vertical ground reaction force component increased, the available ground friction increased and the floor became less slippery. Therefore, human could walk without slip on slippery surfaces with greater toe grip and gentler heel strike as adaptation strategies.