New intelligent shoes & insoles could help the elderly, or people with diseases that affect their mobility, to walk without fear of falling.
To many people walking is as simple as putting one for in front of another. But what happens when – because of old age, or a medical condition – you can’t feel where you are placing your feet?
“It feels like I’m walking on cotton wool, I haven’t quite got the response mechanism from the soles of my feet,” says Sam, who has multiple sclerosis.
“It’s easy to stumble, it’s easy to trip, it’s almost like guesswork about where my feet are going. Anticipating steps, that’s the tricky thing.”
This is where Walk With Path, a new smart healthcare company, can help.
Two products, Path Feel and Path Finder, are due to launch tomorrow at the Wearable Technology Show in London.
Path Feel is a smart insole which helps people with sensory deficit to walk more easily, and has been developed to help everyone from the elderly, to people with diseases like diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
The insoles work as they have smart sensors inside which vibrate when the wearer walks, enhancing the wearer’s sensory perception of the environment and helping to trigger movement. They also collect data that could shine a new light on diseases that effect mobility.
Path Finder shoes however, are specially designed for Parkinson’s patients who suffer from ‘Freezing of Gait’ (a condition that can leave individuals feeling as if their feet are glued to the floor. The footwear is able to provide visual cues that break Freezing of Gait, allowing people to walk with independence.
Lise Pape, who has studied both Innovation Design Engineering and Human Biology, founded Walk With Path alongside Iddo Wald and Florian Puech.
“Walk With Path products initially focused on multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease,” she told The Memo. “I was interested in Parkinson’s disease especially as my father suffers from it – he experiences some of the issues that I tried to address.”
As far as Pape is aware, there are no other insoles available that provide this kind of active feedback.
“Physiotherapy is the most common falls prevention method, however, compliance is low, and hence physiotherapy is not as effective as desired,” she explains.
With regards to Path Finder, there are other products on the market that provide visual cues, but these require intervention by the user, she adds. “Path Finder is unique by being attached to the shoe,” she explains.
Both products are still being tested, but Pape has seen good results so far, with some users reducing their Freezing of Gait by over 50%.
“The aim is to improve quality of life for the user and their families,” said Pape.
“We would like to see users being able to stay mobile for longer and improve their confidence when walking; Staying mobile will have other positive effects on health and general well being.”
Kitty Knowles is a Senior Features Writer at The Memo. Kitty previously worked as an online journalist for GQ. She can be found tweeting @KittyGKnowles.