Researchers develop pressure sensing socks for people with diabetes

By Aditi Pai

Pressure sensing socksResearchers in Wurzburg, Germany have developed sensor-embedded socks designed to help people with diabetes, who have nerve and circulation problems in their feet and, therefore, less feeling in that area.

The researchers explained that as a result of the nerve problems, people with diabetes end up developing pressure sores without realizing it, and many eventually have to get their toes or feet amputated.

Fraunhofer Institute's pressure-sensing socks, which are embedded with 40 dielectric elastomer sensors, aim to protect against this by sending the user a warning when they put too much pressure on a part of their foot.

“Existing systems on the market measure the pressure distribution only on the bottom of the foot using shoe inserts," Fraunhofer ISC Research Scientist Dr. Bernhard Brunner said in a statement. "Our sensors are attached to the stocking’s sole, at the heel, the top of the foot and the ankle, so they can take readings in three dimensions. This is a totally new approach.” 

The stockings are made from a blend of cotton and synthetic fibers, which Brunner explains is important because the fabric needs to be extremely comfortable and breathable so that the user can wear them every day. Applications for the socks also include sports and fitness -- a user can wear them while jogging to analyze running style and foot positioning.

When Brunner is ready to market them, he expects they will cost no more than $284.

Last year, Sensoria Fitness (formerly known as Heapsylon), which has developed fitness-focused smart sock offering, raised $5 million from Italian investor Reply SpA. In exchange, Reply SpA acquired a 20 percent interest in the company. The smart socks track a user’s steps, speed, calories, altitude and distance while running or walking. Earlier that year, the company announced that it would sell its socks in partnership with shoe company Vivobarefoot.