You may not think they are the answer to your medical woes, but your footsteps can reveal a lot about you. As they strike the ground, your feet carry the weight of your body forwards, keeping you balanced and mobile. An incorrect footfall or poor gait can go undetected for years, but over time can lead to serious back, knee and ankle injuries.
With this in mind, we wanted to find a way to measure how different people’s weight is transferred through their feet, preventing injury and even helping patients rehabilitate. Our solution? Intelligent insoles.
Bai-step is a bio-electronics project that took its first steps at the University School of Industrial Engineering in Bilbao. During our studies, we explored how to apply electronic and engineering solutions to medical concepts in the new bioelectronics course offered by the university. Our initial prototype, originally developed as our final-year project, has since made the leap into a product ready for market. Bai-step ships as a pair of electronic insoles, complete with a computer program to record and analyse the wearer’s footsteps.
All the user needs to do is slip the insoles straight into their favourite shoes, take them for a walk, and watch the results come in!
So, how does it work?
Bai-step’s design is based around the biomechanics of the human foot. We did a huge amount of studying into the structure and function of the biological system of the foot, breaking each step into its mechanical parts.
The first part of the step is the stance or contact phase. Imagine you are stepping forwards: your heel is the first part to hit the ground, followed by the rest of the foot. The step ends as the heel lifts and you are propelled forwards by the ball of your foot and your toes. At this point, the ligaments running between your heel and toes, and the bones of the toes themselves, are under the most stress.
During the swing phase, your foot is moving through the air, ready to strike the ground again. The biggest stress during this phase occurs when your heel first hits the ground. All of your weight is transferred through this impact zone, and this should be the highest pressure recorded during the step.
We have designed bai-step’s hardware to take into account the biomechanics of the most common foot ‘types’. Based on these studies, the insoles have been programmed to measure the pressure across the entire foot, with over 10 innovative sensors in each insole. As pressure is applied, the sensors collect data at every stage of each footstep.
Bai-step’s software allows users to display both the data stored on the insole’s memory as well as viewing each step in real-time, via Bluetooth. The program also allows users to see the insoles as a whole, or zoom in on the precise values measured by individual sensors at any one time.
Who is bai-step designed for?
The bai-step intelligent insoles have different modes, depending on each user’s needs.
The insoles can be used to measure the pressures exerted by the foot and assess a user’s strike pattern. The sensors can pick up whether the wearer pronates, supinates or has a neutral foot fall. Physiotherapists can then analyse the resulting data, detecting any problems in strike pattern and plan corrective actions for patients.
Alternatively, if the user is a long-distance runner or elite competitor, bai-step can help prevent injuries based on their tread pattern.
The insoles can also be used by rehabilitating patients. Following injury, patients may have been off their feet for several months or more, unable to move around unaided. As they start to walk again, bai-step can gather essential information on steps, helping patients regain strength in their injured foot.
The bai-step insoles provide an innovative engineering solution to visualising the pressure information of footsteps. With this knowledge, healthcare professionals can plan preventative and corrective actions for patients, avoiding future injury.
Bai-step has been developed in collaboration with EUITI Bilbao from the University of Basque Country, OSI Cruces, COITI Bilbao and CIFP Repelega.
For further information or to get in touch with the team, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.