Hackaday Prize Entry: DIY Foot Orthotics

What does your gait look like to your foot? During which part of your gait is the ball of your feet experiencing the most pressure? Is there something wrong with it? Can you fix it by adding or removing material from a custom insole? All these answers can be had with an expensive system and a visit to a podiatrist, but if [Charles Fried] succeeds you can build a similar system at home. 

The device works by having an array of pressure sensors on a flat insole inside of a shoe. When the patient walks, the device streams the data to a computer which logs it. The computer then produces a heat map of the person’s step. The computer also produces a very useful visualization called a gait line. This enables the orthotist to specify or make the correct orthotic.

[Charles]’s version of this has another advantage over the professional versions. His will be able to stream wirelessly to a data logger. This means you can wear the sensor around for a while and get a much more realistic picture of your gait. Like flossing right before the dentist, many people consciously think about their gait while at the foot doctor; this affects the result.

He currently has a prototype working. He’s not sure how long his pressure sensors will last in the current construction, and he’s put wireless logging on hold for now. However, the project is interesting and we can’t wait to see if [Charles] can meet all his design goals.

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7 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: DIY Foot Orthotics

  1. “…many people consciously think about their gait while at the foot doctor; this affects the result.”

    Great job. I was going to gripe until I read that. Very very good point!

  2. If you need a greater detailed view of the pressure distribution you can try a method based on birefringent rings. The base needs to be clear strong and inflexible, with the second layer more flexible and white, or perhaps mirrored. Optionally the nano scale gap can be filled with a film of oil to adjust the pressure range at which the rings form. If the edges of the two layers are sealed the pressure of the oil film can also be manipulated to calibrate the device. A camera and lights below the assembly are used to capture the image. Absolute calibration may not be required if an iterative method is applied where a soft insole can be printed and attached to the bare foot for a second round of imaging. Having done this you can be more assured that the values in the data record in the field is in fact gate biomechanics related rather than also the result of foot geometry.

  3. Wow, this is interesting!

    I don’t like the idea of orthotics though. It’s like cutting your lumber wrong and then adding shims to make it fit. The solution is to cut straight from the beginning.

    So with this system, you could make an app that connects to the sensors and reminds you when it senses improper gait. In the long run, this can probably fix your muscle imbalance and thus fix the actual problem.

    1. That only works if you have good feet and legs. I use orthotic insoles because one of my legs is shorter than the other, so I naturally walk with a weird limp.

    2. If you’ve never needed orthotics, Sebastian, you’d be hard pressed to understand what they do and how they’re beneficial. As soon as i can figure out a way to just pay attention harder and correct my faulty instep, then i guess i won’t need to shell out hundreds of dollars every several years for orthotics.

      In the meantime, the rest of us thank the FSM you’re not a medical doctor.

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