INTRODUCTION: In three-dimensional gait analysis, anatomical axes are defined by and therefore sensitive to marker placement. Previous analysis of the Oxford Foot Model (OFM) has suggested that the axes of the hindfoot are most sensitive to marker placement on the posterior aspect of the heel. Since other multi-segment foot models also use a similar marker, it is important to find methods to place this as accurately as possible. The aim of this pilot study was to test two different 'jigs' (anatomical alignment devices) against eyeball marker placement to improve reliability of heel marker placement and calculation of hindfoot angles using the OFM.
METHODS: Two jigs were designed using three-dimensional printing: a ratio caliper and heel mould. OFM kinematics were collected for ten healthy adults; intra-tester and inter-tester repeatability of hindfoot marker placement were assessed using both an experienced and inexperienced gait analyst for 5 clinically relevant variables.
RESULTS: For 3 out of 5 variables the intra-tester and inter-tester variability was below 2 degrees for all methods of marker placement. The ratio caliper had the lowest intra-tester variability for the experienced gait analyst in all 5 variables and for the inexperienced gait analyst in 4 out of 5 variables. However for inter-tester variability, the ratio caliper was only lower than the eyeball method in 2 out of the 5 variables. The mould produced the worst results for 3 of the 5 variables, and was particularly prone to variability when assessing average hindfoot rotation, making it the least reliable method overall.
CONCLUSIONS: The use of the ratio caliper may improve intra-tester variability, but does not seem superior to the eyeball method of marker placement for inter-tester variability. The use of a heel mould is discouraged.