BACKGROUND: Shoes with an unstable sole construction are commonly used as a therapeutic tool by physiotherapists and are widely available from shoe and sporting goods retailers. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of using an unstable shoe (Masai Barefoot Technology) on standing balance, reactive balance and stability limits. METHODS: Thirty-one subjects agreed to participate in the study and underwent balance tests on three different occasions. After test occasion one (baseline) 20 subjects received Masai Barefoot Technology shoes and were requested to wear them as much as possible for the remaining eight weeks of the study. Three specific balance tests were administered on each test occasion using a Pro Balance Master (NeuroCom International Inc., Oregon, USA). Tests included; a modified sensory organization test, reactive balance test and limits of stability test. FINDINGS: Subjects in the intervention group significantly improved their performance on elements of all three tests however results on these variables were not demonstrated to be significantly better than the control group. No significant differences were observed across testing occasions in the control group. INTERPRETATION: Results from the present study suggest that, for this group of individuals, use of unstable footwear may improve certain aspects of balance.
Clinical Biomechanics, 2010, Vol 25, Issue 5, p. 455-60