Vibrating shoe could help with balance for people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, study shows

People with diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) could benefit from a smart show insole that has shown to improve balance and walking in those with the condition.

A study has found the vibrations created by the insole help to increase the speed people with DPN can walk on level surfaces and stairs, as well as improving their balance.

Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University Institute of Sport tested the effectiveness of an intelligent shoe insole system that creates vibrations to improve foot sensation.

Lead author Giorgio Orlando, Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Sport, said: “Our study is the first to show the benefits of a vibrating insole system on the quality of movement and balance in people with diabetic neuropathy.

“The positive effects appear as soon as the insoles begin to be used, which means that if the production and availability of the technology can be upscaled then the quality of life of millions of people living with diabetes across the world could be improved.”

For the study, 22 participants with DPN were evaluated on their walk and balance as they climbed up and down a flight of stairs.

Those wearing the insoles were assessed using a motion capture system as they undertook standing and walking activities. It incorporated 15-minute rest-stops without vibration before the measures were repeated in randomised test conditions.

Neil Reeves, Professor of Musculoskeletal Biomechanics at Manchester Metropolitan University Institute of Sport, said: “The main challenge to balance and the majority of falls in people with diabetes occur during walking rather than standing.

“So, while vibrating insoles have previously been shown to help the way users can sense pain as well as assist with their posture, our new findings are crucial in improving the way people move and balance while carrying out daily tasks such as walking and stair climbing, which has not previously been investigated.”

The International Diabetes Federation estimates that up to 270 million people with diabetes across the world suffer from DPN.

The study is the latest in Manchester Met’s research, working with partners including Diabetes UK, into the use of medical devices, digital technologies and other interventions in reducing the risks of diabetic foot ulcers and improving gait and balance in people with diabetes.

Read the study in Diabetes Care.

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