Skip to main content

Spatial resolution and peak-pressure-change measurement accuracy


It has been suggested that plantar pressures should be measured at ~6.2 mm to accurately characterize local maxima [1], and it has been shown that sensor widths of 10 mm can cause a 30% pressure underestimation at the metatarsal heads [2]. However, these results assume that pressure maxima, not maxima changes, are of primary interest. The purpose of this study was to examine how spatial resolution affects accuracy when measuring local maxima vs. changes in local maxima.

Methods and materials

A pressure pulse model (Figure 1) was generalized from [2] for force (F) and wavelength (λ) as:

Figure 1
figure 1

Pressure model (Eqn.1). Example pulses of λ=20 and 25 mm, with maxima of p*=1000 kPa and 640 kPa, Total force = 100 N.

where the maximum pressure (p*) is 4-2, and the measured pressure (p) has an analytical solution dependent on sensor width w. The measurement accuracy of local-maxima and local-maxima-changes are p/p* [2], and (p1-p2)/(p*1-p*2), respectively, where ‘1’ and ‘2’ denote pulses with different wavelengths. To mimic insole-padding intervention, where total force is not expected to change, F was a constant 100 N and λ was varied from 20 mm [2]. Numerical optimization was used to find the critical sensor width that yielded various target accuracies for both local-maxima and a variety of local-maxima-changes (-100% to +100% change).


Results reveal that a target accuracy of 90% requires 5 mm resolution for local peak pressures (Figure 2), and that pressure-changes at 90% accuracy require resolutions of 4.1 mm and 3.2 mm, for changes of -50% and +50%, respectively. The reason is intuitive: the true difference pulse has higher frequency components than the original pulses, so pressure-change accuracy will be lower for all changes >-100%.

Figure 2
figure 2

Critical sensor width needed to achieve given accuracies for local maxima (solid dots), and maxima changes (solid lines).


This study has shown that, to achieve a given measurement accuracy, higher spatial resolutions are needed to measure local-pressure-maxima-changes than single-maxima. The main limitations are that pressure pulses are not, in general, constrained to have constant force and that broader (i.e. non-local) pressure changes were not considered.


  1. Davis B, Cothren R, Quesada P, Hanson SB, Perry JE: Frequency content of normal and diabetic plantar pressure profiles: implications for the selection of transducer sizes. J Biomech. 1996, 29: 979-983. 10.1016/0021-9290(95)00116-6.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Lord M: Spatial resolution in plantar pressure measurement. Med Eng Phys. 1997, 19: 140-14. 10.1016/S1350-4533(96)00057-4.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Todd C Pataky.

Rights and permissions

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Pataky, T.C. Spatial resolution and peak-pressure-change measurement accuracy. J Foot Ankle Res 5 (Suppl 1), O30 (2012).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI: