A user-centered qualitative study on experiences with ankle-foot orthoses and suggestions for improved design

Prosthet Orthot Int. 2018 Apr;42(2):121-128. doi: 10.1177/0309364616683981. Epub 2017 Jan 18.


Background: Improving ankle-foot orthosis design can best be done by implementing a user-centered approach.

Objective: To provide insight into the ideas of ankle-foot orthosis users with flaccid ankle muscle paresis on the importance of activities and suggestions for an improved ankle-foot orthosis design.

Study design: A focus-group discussion with eight ankle-foot orthosis users (57 ± 5 years, 50% female).

Methods: Main inclusion criteria were as follows: ⩾18 years, unable to stand on tip-toe and unable to lift toes. Main exclusion criterion was spasticity of lower extremity muscles. Transcribed data were coded according to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. Thematic analysis with inductive approach was chosen to order and interpret codes.

Results: Ankle-foot orthosis users ranked walking the most important activity followed by sitting down/standing up from a chair. Their opinion was that ankle-foot orthoses facilitate walking and standing. Ankle-foot orthosis users suggested that an improved ankle-foot orthosis design should balance between stability and flexibility.

Conclusion: Current ankle-foot orthoses facilitate walking which was the most important activity according to ankle-foot orthosis users. An improved ankle-foot orthosis design should enable walking and should optimize between stability and flexibility dependent on the activity and the paresis severity. Clinical relevance Experienced users of ankle-foot orthosis agreed that matching ankle-foot orthosis functions to daily-life activities is a trade-off between stability and flexibility. An improved ankle-foot orthosis design should at least enable level walking.

Keywords: Ankle-foot orthosis; focus group; paretic ankle muscles; user driven.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ankle Joint / physiopathology
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Foot / physiopathology
  • Foot Orthoses / statistics & numerical data*
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / diagnosis
  • Gait Disorders, Neurologic / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Walking / physiology*