February 2020

Custom AFO With Walking Shoes Improves Balance, Reduces Fear of Falling for Seniors

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Research shows that one out of every four older Americans falls annually. Fall-related injuries continue to be a costly and debilitating health risk, costing the US healthcare system about $50 billion annually. More importantly, falling once doubles an older adult’s risk of falling again, increasing their fear of falling and negatively impacting quality of life.

To address this growing public health challenge, researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine and the Interdisciplinary Consortium on Advanced Motion Performance (iCAMP) sought to evaluate the effectiveness of daily use of bilateral custom-made ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs) on balance, fear of falling, and physical activity in older adults with concern about or at risk for falling. Their results, published in the journal Gerontology, show that daily use of custom-made AFOs and walking shoes are a core element in improving balance in seniors at risk for falls. The research found the use of the Moore Balance Brace (Arizona AFO, Mesa, AZ), a custom-fabricated light-weight, flexible therapeutic brace, can have a positive impact on stability and minimize the fear of falls.

The 6-month randomized controlled trial examined 44 seniors (age 75.6±6.5 yrs) who had concerns about or exhibited a risk of falling. A control group was provided with custom-fitted walking shoes (New Balance, Boston, MA). An intervention group was provided custom-fitted walking shoes and bilateral custom-made AFOs (Moore Balance Brace, Arizona AFO, Mesa, AZ).

Results highlighted the increased stability and confidence participants of the intervention group experienced—for example:

Daily use of bilateral custom-made AFOs plus walking shoes reduced upright standing postural sway by 54.9% at 6 months compared to baseline and compared to walking shoes alone

Participants using the AFOs in daily life reported a decreased fear of falling

Physical activity increased amongst participants due to reduced fear of falling

~80% of participants perceived the AFOs to be “useful” when paired with walking shoes, an important indicator of patient acceptance and compliance.

Source: Wang C, Goel R, Rahemi H, Zhang Q, Lepow B, Najafi B. Effectiveness of Daily Use of Bilateral Custom-Made Ankle-Foot Orthoses on Balance, Fear of Falling, and Physical Activity in Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Gerontol. 2019;65(3):299-307.

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