Background and purpose. Foot disorders have been implicated as a factor related to falls in the elderly, but few studies have clearly defined the relationship between foot disorders and balance in this population. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between balance and common foot disorders in independently living community ambulators aged 75 years and older.
Methods. Ninety-six community-dwelling adults aged 75 years or older were screened for foot disorders and tested with the Berg Balance Scale (BBS) and the Timed Up and Go test (TUG). The foot screen examined subjects feet for the following disorders: bunion, mallet toe, hammer toe, claw toe, bony exostosis, hyperkeratotic lesion, tailor's bunion, decreased sensation and pain.
Results. Eighty-seven subjects (90.6%) were found to have one or more foot disorders. A stepwise regression identified only mallet toe as a significant predictor of balance as measured by the BBS (r = 0.221) and TUG (r = 0.228) at p = 0.05. No significant correlation to BBS and TUG scores was found when foot deformities were analyzed as a group.
Discussion and conclusion. Although statistically significant, the correlation between mallet toe and the BBS and TUG was weak and has questionable clinical relevance. Future studies of balance and foot disorders may benefit from using more sensitive measures of balance or by including subjects with more severe foot disorders. Although this study does not suggest that the presence and prevalence of foot disorders increases fall risk in the elderly, it does support previous reports of high prevalence rates of foot deformities in tins group. This finding highlights the need for foot care and education as a component of wellness in a population prone to foot problems.
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