June 2014

Patients with MS and foot drop assess benefits and drawbacks of AFOs, FES

In the moment: Footcare

By Jordana Bieze Foster

Patients with multiple sclerosis and foot drop find that both ankle foot orthoses (AFOs) and functional electrical stimulation (FES) have pros and cons, but that, overall, the positives of both devices outweigh the negatives, according to research from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, UK.

In the constructivist phenomenological study, separate focus groups of AFO users (n = 4) and FES users (n = 6) cited similar benefits of the devices, including reduced fatigue, improved gait, fewer trips and falls, greater participation, and increased confidence. AFO users reported that their devices improved balance and stability, while FES users reported increased walking distance, fitness, and physical activity.

The two groups also cited common barriers to device use, including issues related to shoes and clothing. AFO users noted a non-normal gait pattern as a negative, and FES users mentioned difficulties in application and limitations in design.

However, overall, participants said the positive impacts of the devices on improving quality of life were more important than the practical drawbacks they experienced.

The findings were e-published on May 6 by Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology.


Bulley C, Mercer TH, Hooper JE, et al. Experiences of functional electrical stimulation (FES) and ankle foot orthoses (AFOs) for foot-drop in people with multiple sclerosis. Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol 2014 May 6. [Epub ahead of print]

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