Effects of plantar fascia stiffness on the biomechanical responses of the ankle-foot complex

Jason Tak-Man Cheung, Ming Zhang, Kai Nan An

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background. The plantar fascia is one of the major stabilizing structures of the longitudinal arch of human foot, especially during midstance of the gait cycle. Knowledge of its functional biomechanics is important for establishing the biomechanical rationale behind different rehabilitation, orthotic and surgical treatment of plantar fasciitis. This study aims at quantifying the biomechanical responses of the ankle-foot complex with different plantar fascia stiffness. Methods. A geometrical detailed three-dimensional finite element model of the human foot and ankle, incorporating geometric and contact nonlinearities was constructed by 3D reconstruction of MR images. A sensitivity study was conducted to evaluate the effects of varying elastic modulus (0-700 MPa) of the plantar fascia on the stress/strain distribution of the bony, ligamentous and encapsulated soft tissue structures. Findings. The results showed that decreasing the Young's modulus of plantar fascia would increase the strains of the long and short plantar and spring ligaments significantly. With zero fascia Young's modulus to simulate the plantar fascia release, there was a shift in peak von Mises stresses from the third to the second metatarsal bones and increased stresses at the plantar ligament attachment area of the cuboid bone. Decrease in arch height and midfoot pronation were predicted but did not lead to the total collapse of foot arch. Interpretation. Surgical dissection of the plantar fascia may induce excessive strains or stresses in the ligamentous and bony structures. Surgical release of plantar fascia should be well-planned to minimise the effect on its structural integrity to reduce the risk of developing arch instability and subsequent painful foot syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)839-846
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Biomechanics
Volume19
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2004

Keywords

  • Fasciotomy
  • Finite element model
  • Ligaments
  • Strain
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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