Stiffness modification of two ankle-foot orthosis types to optimize gait in individuals with non-spastic calf muscle weakness-A proof-of-concept study

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Background: To reduce gait problems in individuals with non-spastic calf muscle weakness, spring-like ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs) are often applied, but they are not individually optimized to treatment outcome. The aim of this proof-of-concept study was to evaluate the effects of modifying the stiffness for two spring-like AFO types with shoes-only as reference on gait outcomes in three individuals with calf muscle weakness due to polio. Methods: We assessed 3D gait biomechanics, walking speed and walking energy cost for shoes-only and five stiffness conditions of a dorsal-leaf-spring AFO and a spring-hinged AFO. Outcomes were compared between stiffness conditions in the two AFOs and three subjects. Results: Maximum ankle dorsiflexion angle decreased with increasing stiffness in both AFOs (up to 6-8°) and all subjects. Maximum knee extension angle changed little between stiffness conditions, however different responses between the AFOs and subjects were observed compared to shoes-only. Walking speed remained unchanged across conditions. For walking energy cost, we found fairly large differences across stiffness conditions with both AFOs and between subjects (range 3-15%). Conclusions: Modifying AFO stiffness in individuals with non-spastic calf muscle weakness resulted in substantial differences in ankle biomechanics and walking energy cost with no effect on speed. Our results provide proof-of-concept that individually optimizing AFO stiffness can clinically beneficially improve gait performance.
Original languageEnglish
Article number41
Pages (from-to)41
JournalJournal of Foot and Ankle Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2019


  • Ankle-foot orthosis
  • Calf muscle weakness
  • Gait biomechanics
  • Neuromuscular disorders
  • Poliomyelitis
  • Spring stiffness modification
  • Walking energy cost

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