OSU researchers seek volunteers for balance study


CORVALLIS - Researchers at Oregon State University are seeking volunteers to participate in a study on the relationship between foot orthotics and balance. Foot orthotics are shoe inserts used to correct or improve how the foot and ankle interact with the ground.

The study is one of the first to look at the long-term effects of using such orthotics.

"Orthotics can be very useful in addressing foot problems by relieving the symptoms of plantar fasciitis, sprained (fallen) arches, and other conditions," said Marie Hornyik, a doctoral student in exercise and sport science at OSU and co-investigator in the study. "There isn't a great deal of research, however, that looks at how orthotics might affect the body in other ways, including balance."

Postural balance can be affected by vision, vestibular (inner ear) conditions, and "somatosensory" sensations, or information sent to the spinal cord and brain from joints, muscles, and skin. Orthotics may positively affect the somatosensory aspect of balance by changing muscle and tendon length, thus affecting a person's sense of body position in space, Hornyik pointed out.

The OSU study will compare groups of volunteers wearing orthotics with volunteers who do not by testing balance and other physiological changes.

The researchers need male and female volunteers who are between 20 and 50 years old, have had no surgery on their legs, and have not sustained any head injuries that caused a loss of consciousness. Volunteers will need to come to the OSU campus five times over a period of four months for a series of brief balance tests.

Volunteers will receive a free comprehensive evaluation of their postural stability and balance capabilities as part of the study. For more information, contact Marie Hornyik at 541-737-6898.

Rod Harter, an associate professor of exercise and sport science at OSU, is co-investigator and faculty adviser for the project. The research is supported by Foot Management, Inc., which is supplying the orthotics.