3D-printed insoles improve foot health of patients with diabetes

A team of scientists from Staffordshire University (UK) has used 3D printing to develop shoe insoles that could be used to improve the foot health of patients with diabetes.

The team claims that the insoles (pictured above) could help to reduce foot ulcers by including ‘optimized cushioning’ in diabetic footwear, which could ultimately lead to a reduced risk of amputation. By selecting the correct cushioning stiffness in footwear, pressure experienced on the feet can be minimized, thus reducing the risk of ulcers and other painful conditions.

The optimum stiffness is clearly related to the patient’s body mass index (BMI). This study adds to our earlier findings and concludes that stiffer materials are needed for people with a higher BMI,” explained Panagiotis Chatzistergos, Associate Professor at the Centre for Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Technologies at Staffordshire University and lead author.

The team further claims that this research, outlined in Gait and Posture, is the first to present quantitative evidence in support of optimized diabetic footwear, as 15 patients with diabetic foot disease were studied.

The patients were asked to walk in footwear with personalized, 3D-printed insoles as the researchers changed the ‘stiffness’ across the entire sole from ‘very soft’ to ‘very stiff’.

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Commenting on the outcomes of the research, Alfred Gatt (University of Malta) added:

We hope that the results reported within this study will generate interest amongst all professionals managing this debilitating condition.”

The team are now working on a methodology for best identifying the optimum cushioning stiffness on a patient-by-patient basis, ensuring the best personalized approach for the future clinical development of the 3D-printed insoles.

With numerous patients losing their limbs to diabetic foot disease, our research will help clinicians effectively manage this disease,” concluded Nachi Chockalingam, Director of the Centre for Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Technologies at Staffordshire University.

Sources: Chatzistergos PE, Gatt A, Formosa C, Farrugia K, Chockalingam N. Optimized cushioning in diabetic footwear can significantly enhance their capacity to reduce plantar pressure. Gait Posture. 79, 244–250 (2020);

Lead image: 3D-printed insoles can be adapted for individual patients to reduce the risk of foot ulcers. Credit: Staffordshire University

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