Attractive, affordable and comfortable footwear for foot drop
HDC Shoe is a footwear range for people affected by foot drop from different health conditions. It consists of an initial all-season, every-day shoe design that incorporates an aesthetically pleasing and affordable design which is comfortable and supports the foot during walking. The shoe keeps the feet in an optimal position when walking, enhancing their remaining function, enabling movement at the ankle and acting as an assistive device by holding the feet up.
When we started the company in 2018, we had several ideas of possible products that had emerged through Gillian’s work with people at the MS Therapy Centre in Edinburgh (MSTC). Gillian is the Lead Physiotherapist there and she sees how people’s lives are altered as their health changes over time. Many individuals are highly capable of analysing what is happening in their body and how it is affecting their ability to spend time with their families, do their jobs, and other key roles. In their conversations with Gillian patients often say ‘if only there was a product that…’ However, usually there isn’t! or if there is a product, it hasn’t always been developed or improved with the valuable input of people who will use it.
We wanted to do something about this – and chose to focus first on developing a product for individuals affected by foot-drop. This describes an inability to lift the toes when walking – and it can increase the likelihood of tripping and falling. People can become quite afraid of this and stop taking part in as many activities. Foot-drop can happen when a person has a stroke, when they are living with multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy, and for other reasons as well.
If you have foot-drop, you may have used some kind of splint, like an Ankle Foot Orthosis. This can help, but some find it difficult to use as it keeps your foot in a right-angle position, isn’t very comfortable, and significantly affects the way you walk. Others use Functional Electrical Stimulation – a stimulator that triggers electrodes placed on the shin muscles. The stimulation makes the muscles contract and lift your toes. This can be very useful, but not everyone finds it works for them or can afford it. We wanted to develop something more affordable, that is also less obvious and encourages you to continue moving your ankle.
In conversation with people who have foot drop, we gradually developed the idea of a shoe that includes the right support to act a bit like an extra shin muscle. We call this ‘Smart Strap Technology.’
It has taken time to develop this – to find the money, keep involving people who are living with foot-drop at key stages, and test out different versions. We have been supported through this by Queen Margaret University and the MS Therapy Centre in Edinburgh. They have given us time, money, and advice.
Firstly, we had to focus on the most important parts of the shoe structure and how they fit together. We are now at the point where we have developed our first shoe and
developed our second shoe and used feedback to improve it
developed four versions of our third shoe – five people tested each and we used their feedback to decide on a final design. We have submitted a patent application based on this design.
Asked someone to wear this and used their feedback to improve it
We are testing the final shoe design against other devices, including ankle foot orthoses and foot-ups. We are asking people to walk in a gait analysis laboratory to see how they compare in helping people to walk.
The next step is to make our shoe design look as attractive as possible! We want this to be a shoe that anyone can wear without worrying that it might look like an ‘orthotic’.
We are also in the process of applying for funds that will help us take the shoes to market, so that you can buy them from our website. We are moving this forward as fast as we can and will keep updating the website. You can also keep up with our news through social media. We are on Facebook and Twitter.
We don’t see this as the end of the story. Once we have started to sell our shoes, we want to hear about your experiences as you use them. We aim to continually improve products and develop versions that work better for different people depending on their needs.
We also have lots of other ideas for future products to help people stay involved in life – and we value any thoughts you have! We decided that this company should be a social enterprise to make sure that we work as a true collective – that we design together and everyone benefits from the results of our creativity.
We welcome you to be part of that.