Innovative vibrating shoe insoles improve balance and walking for people with diabetes, study shows

By Editor
24th April 2024
Footcare, Research

Vibrations created by a smart shoe insole improve the balance and walking quality in people with nerve damage caused by diabetes, a new study has shown.

Wearing vibrating insoles could help millions of people living with diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) – a condition that causes damage to people’s nerves.

Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University Institute of Sport tested the effectiveness of an intelligent shoe insole system that creates vibrations on the bottom of the feet to improve foot sensation.

The results of the study, published in the Diabetes Care journal, show the insoles helped to increase the speed participants with diabetes can walk on level surfaces and stairs, as well as improving their balance.

The study provides further evidence of the effectiveness of smart technology which, with an upscale of funding and production, could be made available to the wider public.

Giorgio Orlando, Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Sport and lead author of the study, said: “Our study is the first to show the benefits of a vibrating insole system on the quality of movement and balance in people with diabetic neuropathy.

“The positive effects appear as soon as the insoles begin to be used, which means that if the production and availability of the technology can be upscaled then the quality of life of millions of people living with diabetes across the world could be improved.”

Diabetes has been described as a ‘hidden killer’ with more than five million people in the UK living with the condition and an estimated 850,000 people with the condition yet to be diagnosed.

In addition, the International Diabetes Federation estimates that as many as 270 million people with diabetes across the world suffer from DPN.

In the study, 22 men with DPN were assessed for the way they walk as well as their balance when walking and going up and down stairs.

Using a motion capture system, participants wearing the insoles were assessed during standing and walking tasks, with a 15-minute rest-stop without vibration before the measures were repeated in randomised test conditions.

Neil Reeves, Professor of Musculoskeletal Biomechanics at Manchester Metropolitan University Institute of Sport, said: “The main challenge to balance and the majority of falls in people with diabetes occur during walking rather than standing.

“So, while vibrating insoles have previously been shown to help the way users can sense pain as well as assist with their posture, our new findings are crucial in improving the way people move and balance while carrying out daily tasks such as walking and stair climbing, which has not previously been investigated.”

The study is the latest in Manchester Met’s research, working with partners including Diabetes UK, into the use of medical devices, digital technologies and other interventions in reducing the risks of diabetic foot ulcers and improving gait and balance in people with diabetes.

Here more about the research in the University’s MetCast podcast.

Comments (0)