Researchers at Staffordshire University have developed a low-cost method to help prevent foot ulcers in people with diabetes. Millions of people with the condition are at risk of developing foot ulcers, which can often lead to amputations and other health complications. The scientists from the Centre for Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Technologies (CRBT) have developed a new method to reliably detect this risk without the need for complex electronic in-shoe sensors.
Dr Panagiotis Chatzistergos, Associate Professor in Orthopaedic Biomechanics, explains, “Routine overloading of the sole of the foot during daily activities can trigger the onset of foot ulcers, so being able to identify which areas in the sole of the foot are most affected is extremely important.” A common method involves assessing plantar pressure to prescribe special footwear or insoles, however, many clinicians cannot use this due to cost and difficulty to use. Dr Chatzistergos and colleagues have developed a novel concept to address this problem, using 3D-printed, tuneable structures that will help clinicians better understand the cause of ulcer development and improve patient outcomes.
Patients would be required to wear the sensor-insoles in their everyday footwear for a representative period, for example, a day or a week, before returning them for analysis. During the study of the sensor-insole, plantar areas that were routinely subjected to higher pressures should be identifiable against those where pressure was below that threshold.
The concepts behind the work, published in Royal Society Open Science, have been fully developed at Staffordshire University.