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YOUR HEALTH: How a new shoe could give the boot to a stroke victim’s limp

Engineers are developing a boot that helps stroke victims regain their stride by over-correcting the sway they walk.

TAMPA, Florida – In the United States every year close to 800,000 people suffer a stroke.

Many are left with a dragging foot.

But doctors are working on an inexpensive way to fix their footing.

"I used to walk three to five miles a day before my stroke and it would be nice if I could just walk a half a mile."

Well Diane Hintz is on the right track.  She's making strides with this patented portable shoe.

It's called the Moterum I Stride device.  It was invented at USF in Tampa.

These doctors have been working for years to get it just right.  And they're almost to the finish line.

"It took a lot of math," said mechanical engineer Kyle Reed.

"A lot of engineering and quite a few different prototypes to get it to work just right."

Many stroke patients are left with a limp because of damage to their central nervous system.  This shoe helps rewire the brain so they can correct their gait.

Doctors say it's more effective and cheaper than the typical split belt treadmill treatment and patients can even bring this home.

"The I-Stride device causes one foot to move backwards while they're walking and this helps to exaggerate one of the feet so it becomes more asymmetric especially when they take it off they have a corrected gait where it's more symmetric afterwards," explained Reed.

"Don't forget the patient is wearing the shoe on their good side," said University of Southern Florida Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation professor Seok Hun Kim.

The shoe is worn on the good side so it forces the bad side to compensate for the irregular walking pattern.
So far the study shows that within four weeks patients can feel a difference.

"The hope is that if you keep doing this every day you train you get a little more equalized in your step length and you're going to start walking faster," said Reed.

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Engineer Kyle Reed said the iStride device causes one foot to go backwards and this exaggerates your existing asymmetry so that you have to compensate for it.   And so you get a little bit less of asymmetry.   When you go back to walking without the iStride device then that little bit of asymmetry is gone because you've already started compensating for it so now you have a more symmetric walking pattern.

USF doctors say typical stroke rehabilitation uses a split belt treadmill.   It is expensive and has to be done in an office setting with trained staff to monitor sessions.

The I Stride could be available to the public in a year.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.