More than 10 million people worldwide are suffering from Parkinson’s disease. It’s a neurological condition that affects the motor functions of the body. The common symptoms include tremor, rigidity, slowness of movement, and difficulty in balance. These symptoms often make it difficult for patients to perform their daily tasks. One such task is related to the use of footwear.
The researchers of the study stated that this is the first research-based attempt to access and address footwear needs in Parkinson’s disease. Inspired by the results, the study team also designed a dress shoe prototype that may solve some of the difficulties and concerns of Parkinson’s patients with regard to the use of footwear.
Investigating the difficulty of wearing the shoes
The study included a total of 89 Parkinson’s patients, both male and female. The team used a questionnaire to gather information from the participants about their challenges and preferences with regard to footwear. Some questions were also related to demographic characteristics to learn about the socioeconomic status of participants of the study.
After receiving approval from the UC Irvine Institutional Review Board, the participant of the study were invited for interview by the senior authors of the study in the outpatient setting at UC Irvine, California.
When the data from the survey was analyzed, it was found that 64% of Parkinson’s patients were experiencing problems putting on their footwear. These patients were having difficulty with every aspect of the shoe-wearing process, ranging from bending down to slipping their heels into shoes.
The study also looked at the specific type of footwear, ranging from athletic to dress shoes, that were causing discomfort to patients. Most patients were complaining about wearing dress shoes.
When asked how wearing the dress shoes has affected their daily life. About 12% reported that they could not attend events in the past. 38% told that it forced them to make changes to their desired outfits. Moreover, 65% reported having chosen to not wear any dress shoes at all due to their uneasiness.
In the survey, the patients also mentioned their preferences for shoes. Most of them reported preferences for shoes that are lightweight, breathable, laceless, able to be slipped on, equipped with comfortable insoles, and aesthetically pleasing.
The design of a novel dress shoe
Inspired by the results, the study team, which include medical students and physicians, designed a novel dress shoe prototype. The shoe was designed in a way to address some of the difficulties and concerns gathered through the survey.
The shoe looks like any other dress shoe accompanied with laces. Because of its unique magnetic system, the patient can pull open the shoe, step into it, and close the forefoot effortlessly. The easily closing feature also eliminates the need to tie shoelaces.
The scientists of the team believe that such a simple, inexpensive innovation may provide meaningful and immediate benefit to many Parkinson’s patients’ lives.
The study also comes with limitations. It was performed in a relatively small size population, with just 89 patients. The results were self-reported by survey patients and no real-time assessment was performed to check the difficulties faced by patients as they wore different types of shoes. Furthermore, many patients were from communities with a higher-than-average socioeconomic status.
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