Feet and footwear

Developing Footwear for Underground Coal Mine Workers

Mining is an industry that has higher than average rates of workplace injury, particularly in the lower limb. The shoe-surface interface plays an important role in the occurrence of lower limb injuries, with footwear implicated as a potential causative factor. Underground coal mine workers spend most of their working shift on their feet, making boot comfort an important factor in boot design. In the BRL we are currently working with Illawarra Metallurgical Coal to investigate variations in current mining work boot design in an attempt to develop footwear that will not only reduce the incidence of lower limb injuries but will provide a boot that miners find comfortable.

Preventing Falls in Older People

Falls, particularly injurious falls, are a significant problem for the elderly. Although falls are multifactorial in nature, foot problems and inappropriate footwear have been established as major falls risk factors for this population. In fact, finding appropriate footwear to fit the older, often misshapen foot, can be difficult. Our current research is focused on gaining a better understanding of foot structure and function, footwear design and how these factors affect falls in older people.

Effects of Obesity on Foot Structure and Function

There are many long-term debilitating effects of obesity that may impair quality of life, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus and various musculoskeletal disorders. Of these musculoskeletal disorders, foot problems in both obese adults and children are becoming more prevalent. These foot problems are thought to be due to the increased stress placed on the feet by the need to bear excessive mass. However, there is relatively little research literature available examining the possible nexus between altered foot mechanics and obesity in a developmental context. Current research in the BRL is, therefore, examining the association between obesity, lower limb structure and function in prepubescent children, with implications for attempting to prevent lower limb injuries in this population and allowing all children, irrespective of their mass, to participate in physical activity without incurring foot discomfort.