Rolling footwear may help stroke victims to walk normally again
If someone already has difficulty walking, you might think that putting what looks like a roller skate on one of their feet certainly wouldn't help matters. According to a new study, however, the iStride Device has indeed been shown to improve the gait of stroke victims.
After a person has suffered a stroke, the partial paralysis on one side of their body often causes them to develop an asymmetric walking gait – this can in turn lead to balance issues and falls. Developed by a University of South Florida team led by Assoc. Prof. Kyle Reed, the iStride is intended to correct the problem.
Formerly known as the Gait Enhancing Mobile Shoe, the device is strapped onto the bottom of the shoe of the patient's "good" leg. Typically, they're already taking longer strides with this leg, hence the imbalance.
As they subsequently walk, the iStride's four wheels roll backwards with each step, thus increasing the length of the step and exaggerating the existing gait asymmetry.
This motion causes the patient to automatically compensate by increasing the step length of their stroke-affected leg (on which they're wearing a size-matched but non-rolling shoe). After repeated training sessions, the asymmetry of their gait is thus diminished, even once they're no longer wearing the special footwear.
In a recent clinical trial, six stroke victims aged 57 to 74 underwent three 30-minute iStride training sessions three times per week, for a period of four weeks. After the month was up, it was found that all of the test subjects had experienced improvements in gait symmetry and speed.
An existing treatment involves having patients walk on a split treadmill, one side of which moves slightly faster than the other. According to research performed by the South Florida team, however, only about 60 percent of patients who undergo such therapy experience a gait correction when walking in normal, more random environments. This reportedly isn't a problem with the iStride system, as it can be used while walking in real-world settings.
Plans now call for a larger 21-person trial, in which participants will use the device unsupervised in their own homes. A commercial version of the iStride may be on the market by the end of the year.