Effects of barefoot and footwear conditions on learning of a dynamic balance task: a randomized controlled study.

Author: Zech A1, Meining S2, Hötting K3, Liebl D4, Mattes K2, Hollander K5,6
1Department of Human Movement Science and Exercise Physiology, Institute of Sport Science, University of Jena, Seidelstraße 20, 07749, Jena, Germany. astrid.zech@uni-jena.de.
2Institute of Human Movement Science, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany.
3Institute of Psychology, Biological Psychology and Neuropsychology, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany.
4Institute of Statistics, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany.
5Department of Sports and Rehabilitation Medicine, BG Trauma Hospital of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany.
6Department of Sports and Exercise Medicine, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany.
Conference/Journal: Eur J Appl Physiol.
Date published: 2018 Dec
Other: Volume ID: 118 , Issue ID: 12 , Pages: 2699-2706 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1007/s00421-018-3997-6. Epub 2018 Sep 28. , Word Count: 258

PURPOSE: Although barefoot balancing has shown to be more challenging compared to shod balancing, it is still unclear whether this may also influence the balance learning effects. The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of barefoot and shod exercising on learning of a dynamic balance task.

METHODS: Sixty healthy and physically active adults (mean age 25.3 ± 3.4 years) were randomly allocated into one of three groups (barefoot, shod and controls). The barefoot and shod intervention groups exercised once weekly over 7 weeks on a stability platform with an unstable surface. Each training session included 15 trials over 30 s. Before and after the intervention period, all participants completed two balance tests (stability platform and Balance Error Scoring System = BESS) under barefoot and shod conditions. Group effects in stability gains (pre to post-test differences) were analysed using ANOVA. Development of balance learning curves during the intervention period was analysed using a mixed effects model.

RESULTS: Balance times improved in both intervention groups (p < 0.001, 95% CI barefoot 5.82-9.22 s, shod 7.51-10.92 s) compared to controls. The barefoot intervention group showed a significantly less sloped balance learning curve compared to the shod intervention group (p = 0.033). No changes over time or differences between groups were found for the BESS test.

CONCLUSIONS: Improvements in the dynamic balance task did not differ between individuals exercising barefoot or with footwear although the progression was slower in the barefoot group. The lack of changes in the BESS supports the task-specificity of balance learning effects.

KEYWORDS: Balance; Barefoot; Motor learning; Postural control; Shod

PMID: 30267226 DOI: 10.1007/s00421-018-3997-6