Gait freezing is one of the possible symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It’s when the person is unable to take a step even when they’re willing to take a step forward. They’re unable to move for the duration of the freeze and that’s really inconvenient for them. It may even cause them to lose their balance and fall over. The University of Twente’s Murielle Ferraye has found that shoes with lasers can help these patients tackle gait freezing.
A person may be able to break out of a gait freeze by attempting to concentrate on something near their feet that they can either step towards or over. It may be a crack in the sidewalk or just a floorboard.
However, it’s not always possible to have something like this available to concentrate on. It will surely be very helpful if these patients were able to summon such a feature on demand that can help them tackle gait freezing.
This is where the shoes with lasers come in. Each shoe has a laser projection device that projects a laser up to 18 inches ahead. The user can then try to step toward this line in order to break out of their gait freeze. The laser only projects when the foot is resting and doesn’t do that when the shoe is in motion.
A study was conducted and it revealed that 21 Parkinson’s patients found that their incidents of gait freezing were reduced by nearly half after using these shoes. The duration of their freezes was also cut by more than half.
Many of the patients that took part in the study were more than happy to wear the shoes on a daily basis. They also didn’t mind that the line was projected by the shoes even when they were not experiencing gait freezing.
Ferraye has now said that future work on this idea is going to involve making the laser activate only when a gait freeze is detected.