Many people with MS experience problems with walking, which can make day to day activities difficult and often leads to falls. Improving walking ability is of primary importance in maintaining health, independence, and quality of life in people living with MS. Walking problems in MS are often caused by a combination of typical symptoms, such as altered function of muscles, nerves, and senses. Therefore, the key to improving mobility is to use a range of different treatment techniques which address each of these symptoms.
Foot sensation plays an important role in keeping the body upright and balanced whilst walking, yet we know from previous studies that people with MS often have poor sensation on the soles of their feet. As such wearing a specially designed shoe insole, which enhances sensory information at the feet, could help people affected by MS to walk better. This would offer healthcare professionals a new, additional treatment technique to help manage walking problems in MS.
This study will explore whether long-term wear of a textured shoe insole can improve walking in people with MS. Dr Hatton and her team will analyse how people with MS walk over an even and uneven surface, when they are wearing the insoles for the first time and after wearing the insoles for three months. They will explore whether wearing the insoles changes the way the body moves, or the leg and trunk muscles work during walking. They will also monitor any changes in the perception of foot sensation and the awareness of foot position, to help better understand how our insoles may bring about their effects on walking.
This study could lead to the development of a new treatment technique, specifically an inexpensive, easy-to-administer shoe insole, which could help towards improving mobility and independent living.
Over 2016 a substantial effort was made to recruit people with MS to this study, including contacting physiotherapists, neurologist, mail outs, and media releases. These strategies resulted in a high response rate, but unfortunately, only 39 people were deemed eligible to participate in the trial. The trial protocol has been approved and published.
So far 16 people have completed the trial, which involves attending four sessions per week that last 3-4 hours each, and using comprehensive technical equipment. This data is being analysed. A further 19 people with MS are completing the trial early in 2017 and Dr Hatton, will continue to recruit people with MS for this trial over the coming year. The trial measures how body segments move during walking, and how the perception of foot sensation and foot position changes. This preliminary data has been presented at national and international conferences.
Notably, in August 2016, Dr Hatton was awarded a high profile ‘State of Queensland Young Tall Poppy Science Award’ from the Australian Institute of Policy and Science, for this and her other work. This award is for outstanding young scientific researchers and communicators and recognises her entrepreneurship and ability to engage in research beyond the laboratory.
During this project Dr Hatton has also established a productive collaboration with Professor Alan Wing, from The University of Birmingham, UK. They plan to submit applications for research funding later this year to pursue further research together. Dr Hatton has also received further funding from Diabetes Australia to test these insoles in people with diabetes who also often have sensory loss in their feet.
The benefit for people affected by MS is that this project could lead to the development of a new treatment technique, specifically an inexpensive, easy-to-administer shoe insole, which could help towards improving mobility and independent living. This evidence is critical to help healthcare professionals advance current treatment programs for reducing the risk of falling in people with MS. Addressing problems with balance and mobility could also have a major economic impact, improving productivity or reducing working days lost.
Updated: 7 July 2017
Updated: 06 January, 2014