Ankle and foot dorsiflexors are an essential part of the body and consist of 3 muscles that assist the ankle in properly orienting the foot during walking. Weakening of any of these muscles can result in impaired walking, increased incidence of falls, hip, back and knee problems and pain. Patients who cannot complete the full range of dorsiflexion in the foot while walking typically require physical therapy and a rigid ankle and foot brace to prevent the foot from dropping. Although these braces hold up the foot and prevent drag, their rigid structure is uncomfortable and doesn’t promote muscle growth for long term restoration of muscle tone.
Researchers at Arizona State University have developed a soft robotic ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) exosuit for gait assistance. This exosuit is designed to correct ankle orientation and allow the user to regain control of dorsiflexion while maintaining ankle stability when walking. It provides support and dynamic movement to promote muscle growth unlike current orthoses. Soft, pneumatically controlled actuators on the front of the brace create a bending motion and provide 4Nm of torque for dorsiflexion assistance while actuators on the sides of the ankle serve as a wrap brace for support and stability. A convenient and portable pump controls the soft actuators. Additionally, sensors embedded in the insoles are used to detect the stage of the gait cycle and make sure the angle of the foot is sufficient to clear the floor.
This novel soft exosuit provides patients with stability and assistance so that they can regain control of the dorsiflexion and restore a natural gait cycle.
• Ankle or foot injuries
• Foot drop
• Multiple sclerosis treatment
• Neural muscular disease treatment
Benefits and Advantages
• Supportive – provides stability while allowing dynamic movement
• Comfortable – utilizes a soft exosuit instead of rigid components
• Prevents foot drag
• Enables better gait movement
• Supports muscle growth
• Compact and lightweight design
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