How to Choose the Right Force Plates for Your Practice

Learn how popular dual, uniaxial, portable force plates compare so you can assess which model is best suited to your practice.

Force plates (also known as force platforms) were first sold commercially in the 1970s to measure gait and balance. These early force plates, which were almost exclusively used in biomechanics laboratories, were cumbersome and stationary. They also required specialized knowledge to operate – the manual nature of the plates made the work of collecting and analyzing data a painstaking process.  

In the years since, force plates have come a long way. No longer relegated to niche laboratories, force plates are now used by physical therapists (PTs), sports medicine practitioners and athletic trainers – and their usefulness extends far beyond merely measuring gait and balance, though those are still primary applications. Today, a wide variety of portable, versatile, user-friendly and – importantly – digital force plates are available for purchase or lease.

This comparison outlines common force plate applications, explores different types of force plates, and provides the specs for, and pros and cons of, four popular force plates on the market.

Common Force Plate Applications

At a high level, force plates measure the ground reaction force (GRF) of a body – or limb – that is either stationary or in motion. Force, power, agility, strength, fatigue, and stability can all be measured with modern force plates. PTs and athletic trainers both use these tools to measure the force an individual exerts while jumping, walking or squatting and to assess static and dynamic balance. Below are more specific applications commonly used in each practice type:

Physical Therapy

Force plates are used in rehabilitative care for a variety of injuries, illnesses and conditions, including:

When used to rehabilitate athletes recovering from surgery or injury, force plates can give PTs the data they need to help make return to sport decisions. When used in neurological rehabilitation and monitoring applications, force plates help doctors track rehabilitative progress and the degeneration of a disease.

Athletic Training

Force plates are a staple tool in the arsenal of many athletic trainers. The versatility of the plates means they can be used to capture a wide variety of performance metrics related to:

  • Strength
  • Jump height
  • Power
  • Peak force
  • Fatigue
  • Limb symmetry
  • Balance
  • These metrics are gathered using exercises including:

    • Countermovement jumps
    • Squat jumps
    • Rebound jumps
    • Drop jumps
    • Land-and-hold (LAH) jumps
  • Mid-thigh pulls
  • Isometric and single-leg squat holds
  • Push-ups
  • McCall hamstring tests
  • Single and double leg balance tests
  • The information gleaned from these tests can help trainers identify strengths and deficiencies in their athletes and, in turn, better inform training plans.

    The Different Types of Force Plates

    The force plate market is crowded with options, tailored to suit a wide variety of specific needs. Some of the primary differences to be aware of when considering force plates include:

    Dual vs. Single

    A dual, or bilateral, force plate system has two plates and a single, or unilateral system, has one plate. Single force plates cannot measure left-right symmetry, but dual systems can.

    Portable vs. Stationary

    Some force plates are embedded in the ground, and others are portable. Portable plates are far more convenient for PTs and trainers who travel to treat patients or train clients.

    Uniaxial vs. Triaxial

    Force plates that only measure vertical force are uniaxial, and force plates that measure both vertical and horizontal force are triaxial. Triaxial force plates, sometimes also referred to as “multi-axis,” are most commonly used in clinical – and not commercial – settings.

    Digital vs. Manual

    The vast majority of force plates sold today – and nearly all force plates used in commercial settings – are digital. As previously mentioned, early force plates were manual, but those models are rare today.

    Sensor Type

    The majority of force plates detect force through load cells, which convert force into a measurable output. These cells may contain beam load cells, strain gauge load cells, or piezoelectric elements.

    Comparing Dual, Uniaxial & Portable Force Plates

    The force plates most commonly used by PTs and trainers are dual, portable, uniaxial plates. For that reason, our comparison will focus on four of the most popular force plates on the market with those characteristics. Each model below is Bluetooth-enabled and linked to software that gives PTs and trainers biofeedback data in real time.

    K-Force Plates
    VALD ForceDecks FDMini Hawkin Dynamics Gen5 Force Plates
    Connectivity Bluetooth + Physio App (compatible with Android and iOS) Bluetooth + Physio App (compatible with Android and iOS) USB or Bluetooth + TeleHab app (compatible with Android and iOS); data and reporting sent to the VALD Hub Bluetooth + software (compatible only with Android tablet)
    Contract Type Purchase hardware, subscribe to software Purchase hardware, subscribe to software Subscription (spread over three-year term; includes hardware and software) Purchase hardware, subscribe to software (+ hardware leasing option available)
    Hardware Price $2,690 $5,990 $3,200 annually (software included) $5,000
    App / Software Price $350 to $1,150 per year $350 to $1,150 per year Included in annual cost of subscription $2,000 (1-year) $4,500 (3-year) $6,000 (5-year)
    Travel Case Included? Yes Yes No No
    Additional Costs N/A N/A Travel case Travel case (available from Hawkin Dynamics for $649)
    Battery 20 hours 20 hours 50 hours 9 hours
    Weight (Per Plate) 2 kg 8.8 kg 5 kg 13 kg
    Dimensions (Per Plate) (L x W x H) 13.6 x 7.5 x 1.2 in 21.5 x 14.5 x 1.7 in 16 x 9 x 1.7 in 24 x 14.3 x 3 in
    Sensor type Electronic force transducers Electronic force transducers Strain gauge load cells Beam load cell
    Precision Within 0.1% of reading Within 0.1% of reading < 0.05% over measuring range Within 0.1% of reading
    Approximate Three-Year Cost (Hardware, Software and Add-ons)* ~$3,740** ~$7,040** ~$9,600
    (excluding price of travel case, purchased separately)
    * Does not include the cost of calibration
    ** Figure based on basic app subscription

    A Deeper Dive

    KINVENT K-Force Plates

    KINVENT is a relative newcomer to the biofeedback device industry – but has become a fast favorite of PTs, athletic trainers, and researchers alike. KINVENT’s suite of eight biofeedback devices, which includes the K-Force Plates and K-Deltas, and a goniometer, EMG sensor, and hand, hand-held, traction, and pneumatic dynamometers, are connected to the KINVENT Physio App. The app displays all data generated by the devices in real time and creates user-friendly reports that can be shared with other members of a care team, and patients or clients. Together, the app and devices give PTs and trainers the precise, numeric data they need to track progress, hone athletic training programs, and make critical care decisions.

    Unlike VALD and Hawkin Dynamics, which were created to measure athletic performance, KINVENT tools and software were created for clinicians – making them an excellent fit for both PTs and athletic trainers. KINVENT devices are used by medical systems (including Mayo Clinic) professional sports teams and leagues (including the UFC, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Chargers) and universities (including Princeton and Baylor).

    The K-Force Plates are an ultra-lightweight and highly portable set of force plates. As one of the lightest models of force plates currently on the market, the K-Force Plates are a good fit for PTs and trainers who travel frequently to patients and clients. Their small footprint does come at a cost though: the plates cannot be used to conduct jump tests.

    As the least expensive of the four options, the K-Force Plates are an excellent value for their money and a stand-out solution for those either looking to try force plates or add a more portable option to their toolkit.


    • The least expensive of the four options
    • The lightest weight and most portable option
    • Case included


    • Can’t be used to perform jump testing

    Buy these if: you want an inexpensive and highly portable set of force plates that excel at generating data for stationary movements.

    KINVENT K-Deltas

    KINVENT’s K-Deltas are a larger, but still highly portable, alternative to the K-Force Plates. The design, size, load capacity, and high sampling rate of the plates make them an extremely versatile tool: they excel at measuring both static and dynamic power, strength, force, fatigue, balance, symmetry and more.  

    Because of KINVENT’s clinical approach, the K-Deltas are trusted by PTs and sports medicine practitioners – in addition to athletic trainers. They are very frequently used as a tool to make well-informed return to sport determinations and to rehabilitate ACL and other athletic injuries.

    Users report time-savings and increased accuracy using the K-Deltas: instead of having to “MacGyver” tests to get formerly hard-to-measure metrics (like the force exerted when an individual performs a push-up), the plates can be used to instantly capture quantitative data.


    • Highly versatile; captures data for a wide variety of tests
    • Excellent value for price
    • Deliver time savings
    • Easy to transport
    • Case included


    • Hardware is the most expensive of the four options

    Buy these if: you want a high-value and highly versatile set of force plates that can be used to conduct a wide variety of tests quickly.

    To learn more, read the case study: KINVENT K-Deltas Bring Pro Level Training & Preventative Injury Care to All

    VALD ForceDecks FDMini

    VALD Performance is a sports science technology company that leases biofeedback devices, primarily to coaches and athletic trainers. Data from the leased devices is sent via the Telehab app to the VALD Hub, a platform that stores data and generates reports.

    VALD leases out a number of biofeedback devices, including a dynamometer, and hamstring, movement analysis and strength testing systems. In 2018, VALD acquired ForceDecks and now rents out the brand’s force plates – the FDMini, FDLite and FDMax. Like VALD’s other devices, the FDMinis are leased out on bundled 3-year subscription plans with the Telehab app and access to the VALD Hub.

    The FDMini force plates are lightweight and have a small footprint and long battery life, making them a good option for athletic trainers who travel frequently to clients. But, while the device performs well, VALD’s subscription plan and lease-only policy is inconvenient and, for many, may not be cost effective.


    • Longest battery life
    • Lightweight


    • No option to own
    • Inflexible leasing terms
    • Subscription model can become expensive over time

    Buy these if: you want to try force plates, but not commit to buying them quite yet.

    Hawkin Dynamics Gen5 Force Plates

    Hawkin Dynamics was founded in 2016, specifically to serve coaches, and released the first generation of its force plates in 2017.  Unlike KINVENT and VALD, Hawkin Dynamics does not sell or lease an entire suite of biofeedback equipment. Instead, the brand offers a limited selection of products: its fifth-generation force plates, proprietary software and various force plate accessories.

    The Gen5 force plates are well regarded in the athletic training industry – but are not as flexible as other force plates on the market. The plates are the largest and least portable of the four options and the most expensive. And, because the software is only compatible with Android tablets, users may need to buy an additional device in order to use the plates.   


    • Options to lease or own


    • Most expensive of the four options
    • Shortest battery life by far
    • Heaviest and bulkiest
    • Only compatible with Android tablets
    • Hawkin Dynamics doesn’t manufacture or sell other biofeedback devices that can be used in conjunction with the force plates

    Buy these if: you want the flexibility of leasing or owning force plates.

    Still Not Sure Which Force Plates Are Right for You?

    Depending on the focus of your practice, the needs of your patients or clients, your budget, and your preference for owning vs. leasing equipment, any of the force plates above may the right fit for your practice. If you need help deciding – or just want to discuss your options – contact JLW Instruments to speak with a force plate expert.

    We stock and calibrate the entire suite of KINVENT Bluetooth-enabled digital devices, including the K-Deltas and K-Force Plates and can assist in selecting the best force plates for your needs.

    KinventKinvent for athletic trainersKinvent force platesKinvent physio app

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