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How Do Walking Speeds And Duration Affect Plantar Blood Flow?

In a study soon to be published in Microvascular Research, Wu and colleagues took a closer look at the effect of walking speed and duration on the blood flow to plantar skin. Studying non-diabetics in this cohort to establish a “normal response,” the hope is to conduct a future, similar study in patients with diabetes to better understand and quantify impaired responses. 

The investigators used laser Doppler flowmetry to measure blood flow to the skin under the first metatarsal head in 12 participants. Measurements included three walking speeds and two walking durations. Walking at nine km/hr significantly increased plantar skin blood flow in comparison to six km/hr and three km/hr. This was even more significant at a 20-minute walking duration in comparison to walking for 10 minutes. Otherwise, there was no significant relationship between walking speed and duration.

While we would hope to see a similar effect in people with diabetes, we would postulate that those with diabetes and neuropathy might have a blunted dose response to increased activity and plantar blood flow. We say this because people with neuropathy often have maximal vasodilation superficially because of an “autosympathectomy.”

This study, however, is another example supporting the concept of the benefit of dosing activity as one might dose a drug. 

Dr. Armstrong is a Professor of Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. He is the Director of the Southwestern Academic Limb Salvage Alliance (SALSA). 

Editor’s Note: This blog originally appeared at: It is adapted with permission from the author.


  1. Wu F-L, Wang WT-J, Liao F, Elliott J, Jain S, Jan Y-K. Effects of walking speeds and durations on plantar skin blood flow responses. Microvascular Research. In press.
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