For some people, walking is about more than physical ability. Even if someone is physically capable of walking, they may still have some difficulty. This is especially true for many sufferers of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder that affects over ten million people, worldwide.
“Freezing of gait” is a problem experienced by many sufferers of Parkinson’s. This occurs when people are walking and suddenly feel unable to lift their feet and continue. This is increasingly likely to happen in times when a person feels rushed or overwhelmed. It can also happen to people who suffer from a few other disorders, such as multiple system atrophy or progressive supranuclear palsy.
Recoverers of strokes and individuals with movement disorders may also find difficulty walking.
For those that want to improve their walking, Walk with Path, a British startup company, has worked to develop two products that may help.
Path Finder is an attachment that can be put on the top of shoes. Simply press the button at the top of the attachment to turn it on, and it emits laser light, so there is a green line a few inches in front of each shoe.
The line helps users focus and helps to guide them forward. For those who “freeze” when walking, it can decrease the duration and frequency of these occurrences.
The line will be slightly off to the left of the right shoe and off to right for the left one. It’s possible to rotate the device, to adjust the position of the laser line.
To conserve energy, the light automatically turns off when there has been an extended period of inactivity. When movement is detected, the light will automatically turn back on, unless the power button was pressed to turn the light off.
When a red light appears on the top of the device, it means the battery is low and needs to be charged. The battery time for the Path Finder varies depending on use, but generally, the company recommends that the battery is charged on a nightly basis.
Path Finder is built to be durable, so it works fine in the outdoors and in the rain. It is advised, however, that the device does not stay submerged in water for any prolonged period.
The shoes are currently available for sale in Britain and European countries. As of now, Walk With Path is still working on making its products available in the United States, as well. Updates and developments on that are available in the company’s newsletter.
Path Feel is an insole that can be put into any pair of shoes. It looks similar to the type of insoles someone would put in their shoes to make them more comfortable or supportive. These insoles, however, do more than that.
The technology in Path Feel creates vibrations so that people who have difficulty feeling the ground can still receive sensory input every time they take a step.
Path Feel can help reduce the risk of falls and can also help people have better balance. When it is hard to feel the ground, it is also hard to walk with much confidence.
Currently, Walk with Path is conducting studies and working to perfect this product and its technology before it is sold.
Path Feel is still being developed and will be made available to both European and American citizens in 2019. There is currently no confirmed price for this product.
Behind the Ideas
Lisa Pape is the founder of Walk with Path. The idea for the shoes came after seeing her father struggle with Parkinson’s disease. She began to develop the concept for Path Finder while she was working on her Master's degree in Innovation Design Engineering, at Imperial College London.
Walk with Path prides itself in having a team filled with people from diverse backgrounds that can each bring their expertise to help improve their products. They have employees with experience in biochemistry, finance, user-centric design, and more.
In the future, they may expand as they develop new products and sell their products in new places. For now, the focus is on perfecting what they already have and trying to provide helpful products for as many people as they possibly can.