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The HDC Directors have been doing research for many years about how best to help individuals with foot drop. Cathy is dedicated to research that involves exploring people’s experiences of using different types of device and strategy. She has written two academic articles that looked at the realities of living with MS and with challenges that emerge after having a stroke – comparing Ankle Foot Orthoses (splints) with Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES).


Both devices had pros and cons and could significantly help people reduce fatigue, trips and falls, improve gait, increase confidence, participation in life and decrease stress and mental effort when walking. Some individuals preferred splints, others preferred FES, however, neither device was usually as comfortable or attractive as they would like. Indeed, both types of device displayed a series of barriers such as being uncomfortable and cumbersome, rigid and static, hard to apply and unattractive.  Participants also expressed the desire for something less obvious and that could be worn with different types of clothes.


The HDC Directors felt that this was something that needed more work – more problem-solving and designing. That process led them to the design of the HDC Shoe footwear line. Cathy’s studies also found that it is important to consider the individual’s needs and lifestyle to select the right device and improve outcomes, which supports HDC’s business model of co-design and collaboration with end-users. 


The HDC Shoe will offer a comfortable design that supports the foot when walking while also enabling movement at the ankle. The ‘Smart Strap Technology’ that is responsible for the optimisation of the shoe, will be internally disguised, allowing the design of the footwear to be aesthetically pleasing and more discreet than the currently existing AFOs. This is crucial for people to achieve a reduced sense of awareness of having a disability and decrease conscious thought during walking, which were issues connected to the existing devices that were identified in Cathy’s studies.


Bulley, C., Mercer, T., Hooper, J., Cowan, P., Scott, S. & van der Linden, M. (2015). Experiences of functional electrical stimulation (FES) and ankle foot orthoses (AFOs) for foot-drop in people with multiple sclerosis. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 10(6), pp. 458-467.

Bulley, C., Shiels, J., Wilkie, K. & Salisbury, L. (2011). User experiences, preferences and choices relating to functional electrical stimulation and ankle foot orthoses for foot-drop after stroke. Physiotherapy: vol. 97, pp. 226-233.

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