Vibrating PDShoe May Help Gait in Parkinson’s

The prototype has only been tested on 27 subjects, but a larger study is planned.

A potential new Parkinson’s disease therapy that may help with freezing of gait is being developed at the University of Delaware in collaboration with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.

The technology, called the PDShoe, involves force sensors and a vibration system that vibrates every time a subject’s foot touches the ground. The shoe, which is similar in theory to that of 19th century neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot’s vibration chair, is the brainchild of University of Delaware (UD) professor of mechanical engineering Sunil Agrawal and Ingrid Pretzer-Aboff, an assistant professor of nursing at UD.

The shoe therapy has so far been tested on 27 subjects to evaluate stride length and stance-to-swing ratio, and also allows clinicians to collect data on subjects remotely while they are in their own home.

“We found that the PDShoes were able to discern differences between healthy and PD subjects,” said Kyle Winfree, a doctoral student at UD. “We also observed a therapeutic effect in PD patients after just nine sessions of vibration therapy.”

The researchers are collecting data on 16 different measures in order to evaluate factors such as gait consistency, and plan to start a larger study to further test the effectiveness of the treatment. The research team also plans to focus on new cell phone technology in order to make the shoe more affordable.