(GIST OF SCIENCE REPORTER) ‘Snapping’ Footwear to Help Prevent Diabetic Foot Complications
‘Snapping’ Footwear to Help Prevent Diabetic Foot Complications
Researchers in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), in collaboration with the Karnataka Institute of Endocrinology and Research (KIER), have developed a set of unique self-regulating footwear for persons with diabetes.
Foot injuries or wounds in persons with diabetes heal at a slower rate than in healthy individuals, which increases the chance of infection, and may lead to complications that require amputation in extreme cases.
The footwear – a pair of specially-designed sandals – developed by the IISc-led team is 3D printed and can be customised to an individual’s foot dimensions and walking style. Unlike conventional therapeutic footwear, a snapping mechanism in these sandals keeps the feet well-balanced, enabling faster healing of the injured region and preventing injuries from arising in other areas of the feet.
The footwear can be especially beneficial for people who have diabetic peripheral neuropathy – those who suffer from nerve damage caused by diabetes, leading to a loss of sensation in the foot. “Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is one of the long-term complications of diabetes, and its diagnosis is mostly neglected,” says Pavan Belehalli, Head of the Department of Podiatry at KIER, and one of the authors of the study published in Wearable Technologies. This loss of sensation leads to irregular walking patterns in persons with diabetes, he says.
For example, a healthy person usually places their heel first on the ground, followed by the foot and toes, and then the heel again – this ‘gait cycle’ distributes the pressure evenly across the foot. But due to the loss of sensation, persons with diabetes may not always follow this sequence, which means that the pressure is unevenly distributed. Regions of the foot where the pressure exerted is high are at greater risk of developing ulcers, corns, calluses and other complications.