A therapeutic shoe that helps stroke patients regain walking skills is expected to become commercially available this year. In a recent trial, the iStride device measured up to split-belt machines used in gait rehabilitation, say the developers. 

The patented iStride, created by University of South Florida engineers, is strapped onto the “good” foot of a stroke patient and exaggerates the existing step motion. This awkward movement strengthens the stroke-impacted leg. Meanwhile, a stationary companion shoe balances out leg height during during treatment. When the shoes are removed, the gait becomes more symmetrical, reported developer Kyle Reed, Ph.D., a professor of mechanical engineering.

The shoe is easy for the wearer to use when compared to other gait retraining devices, and can be worn in varied environments, Reed said. “Since the motion is generated by the wearer’s force, the person is in control, which allows easier adaptation,” he explained. “Unlike many of the existing gait rehabilitation devices, this device is passive, portable, wearable and does not require any external energy.”

The shoe was recently tested in a trial of six older adults who had significant gait problems after suffering a stroke. All participants improved gait symmetry and speed. They took less time to stand and walk from a sitting position, less time to walk to a set location and covered more distance in six minutes. The shoe also helped to strengthen double limb support in some patients, a result not seen in a split-belt machine trial, Reed added.

A demonstration of the shoe in action can be seen in this news video from ABC-affiliated KSAT 12, San Antonio. 

Results from the clinical trial were published in the August issue of the Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation.