Reasons for performing study: Comprehensive understanding of the 3-dimensional (3D) kinematics of the distal forelimb and precise knowledge of alterations induced by dorsopalmar foot imbalance remains incomplete because in vivo studies performed with skin markers do not measure the actual movements of the 3 digital joints.
Objective: To quantify the effects of 6° heel or toe wedges on the 3D movements of the 4 distal segments of the forelimb in horses trotting on a treadmill.
Methods: Three healthy horses were equipped with ultrasonic markers fixed surgically to the 4 distal segments of the left forelimb. The 3D movements of these segments were recorded while horses were trotting on a treadmill. Rotations of the digital joints were calculated by use of a joint coordinate system. Data obtained with 6° heel or toe wedges were compared to those obtained with flat standard shoes.
Results: Use of heel wedges significantly increased maximal flexion and decreased maximal extension of the proximal (PIPJ) and distal (DIPJ) interphalangeal joints. Inverse effects (except for PIPJ maximal extension) were observed with the toe wedges. In both cases, neither flexion-extension of the metacarpophalangeal joint nor extrasagittal motions of the digital joints were statistically different between conditions.
Conclusions: At a slow trot on a treadmill, heel and toe wedges affect the sagittal plane kinematics of the interphalangeal joints.
Potential relevance: Better understanding of the actual effects of toe and heel wedges on the 3D kinematics of the 3 digital joints may help to improve clinical use of sagittal alteration of hoof balance in the treatment of distal forelimb injuries.