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Open Access Thesis

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Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a debilitating disease affecting the entire knee joint by inducing pathological changes to the cartilage and menisci. Currently, the etiology of OA is not completely understood. However, altered gait mechanics, specifically increased joint loading, of OA patients have a clear association with both symptomatic and structural OA progression. Non-surgical intervention tools, such as variable stiffness shoes (VSS), have been developed as a way to decrease loading within the knee joint. However, with external moments being surrogate measures for knee loading, it is unclear if changes in knee moments with the footwear are sufficient to result in a clinical benefit. Therefore, this project’s purpose was to investigate whether a VSS intervention can alter knee joint loading and menisci function in a knee OA population. We used gait analysis, musculoskeletal modeling, and finite element (FE) analysis to determine the effect of VSS on gait mechanics, knee joint contact force, and menisci stress and strain, compared to a control shoe. We found knee moments did not decrease with the VSS intervention. Furthermore, participants who did experience a decrease in knee adduction moment did not always experience a decrease in medial compartment contact force. However, results from our FE modeling of the tibiofemoral joint indicate significant changes in knee joint contact force can influence stress placed on the menisci. Results from this study suggest knee contact forces and tissue stress, not only external moments, should be considered when investigating if VSS can positively impact an OA population.


First Advisor

Katherine Boyer