Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Journal of Foot and Ankle Research and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Review

The use of 3D surface scanning for the measurement and assessment of the human foot

Scott Telfer* and James Woodburn

Author Affiliations

School of Health, Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow, G4 0BA, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 2010, 3:19  doi:10.1186/1757-1146-3-19

Published: 5 September 2010



A number of surface scanning systems with the ability to quickly and easily obtain 3D digital representations of the foot are now commercially available. This review aims to present a summary of the reported use of these technologies in footwear development, the design of customised orthotics, and investigations for other ergonomic purposes related to the foot.


The PubMed and ScienceDirect databases were searched. Reference lists and experts in the field were also consulted to identify additional articles. Studies in English which had 3D surface scanning of the foot as an integral element of their protocol were included in the review.


Thirty-eight articles meeting the search criteria were included. Advantages and disadvantages of using 3D surface scanning systems are highlighted. A meta-analysis of studies using scanners to investigate the changes in foot dimensions during varying levels of weight bearing was carried out.


Modern 3D surface scanning systems can obtain accurate and repeatable digital representations of the foot shape and have been successfully used in medical, ergonomic and footwear development applications. The increasing affordability of these systems presents opportunities for researchers investigating the foot and for manufacturers of foot related apparel and devices, particularly those interested in producing items that are customised to the individual. Suggestions are made for future areas of research and for the standardization of the protocols used to produce foot scans.