Citing the importance of accurate and precise mediolateral foot placement for balance during gait, and its impairment during poststroke ambulation, researchers studied the effect of AFO usage on mediolateral foot placement among poststroke participants. The study, published online before print on May 30 in the journal Prosthetics and Orthotics International, concludes that the use of AFO-mediated equinovarus correction of the affected foot and ankle was not associated with improved biomechanics of walking, however it may affect other aspects of balance that were not tested by the study, such as proprioception and cerebellar, vestibular, and cognitive mechanisms.
The researchers, from Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois, and the Jesse Brown Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Chicago, measured participants’ precision of mediolateral foot placement during four different randomized step widths. Participants were tested with and without their usual non-rigid AFOs in two separate visits. The results indicate that while AFO use corrected foot and ankle alignment, effects of AFO use on hip hiking, circumduction, coronal plane hip range of motion, and mediolateral foot-placement ability were not significant.