Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Update Wearable Technology: Speed laces and vibrating insoles

You may have noticed how frequently your laces become undone these days. This is because shoe lace technology has been revolutionised to cater for walkers and sneakerfreaks. Simply put the flat lace has been replaced by the round lace which is better for the lacing trainers. The downside is these untie themselves on non ath-leisure shoes.

The latest in wearable technology is Speed Laces which are guaranteed to lace up your favourite trainers in lightening speed to become perfectly snug and tangle-free. To work well Speed Laces need to tie up in a zig zag notch system and not all shoes have this. Fear not because you can now buy a set of notches with low-friction eyelets which simply screw into your shoe's existing eyelets. Once fitted pull up the laces tight and move the little plastic piece at the top of the laces to lock them and keep the foot snug. The new system is ideal for sportspeople who cannot stop to re-tie their laces and I would think have application for people challenged with rheumatoid disease.

Boston University researchers have discovered that vibrating insoles improve the balance in people diagnosed with cerebral vascular incidents (a stroke) or diabetic neuropathy, i.e. a common nerve problem that affects the sensation in the feet. Previous research has shown sub-sensory mechanical noise delivered to the feet via vibrating insoles can help people maintain better balance. Insoles containing two vibrating elements on each forefoot and one on each heel were fitted into the shoes of subjects. The researchers tested the effects of the vibrating insoles on sway parameters in 15 patients with diabetic neuropathy and 15 patients with stroke. Data from a previous study of the insoles in 12 healthy elderly patients was also included for comparison. The researchers looked at five traditional sway parameters and three derived from random-walk analysis and all were reduced significantly with the noise application in all of the subjects. The vibration, adjusted to a sub-sensory level, appears to "tickle" neurons, making them more sensitive to stimuli that are present during standing. Additional research is needed to investigate how the technology may benefit patients with stroke affecting different parts of the brain and other diseases.

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