Objective: Soft robotic exosuits can improve the mechanics and energetics of walking after stroke. Building on this prior work, we evaluated the effects of the first prototype of a portable soft robotic exosuit.
Methods: Exosuit-induced changes in the overground walking speed, distance, and energy expenditure of individuals post-stroke were evaluated statistically and compared to minimal clinically important difference scores.
Results: Compared to walking without the exosuit worn, the <; 5 kg exosuit did not substantially modify speed, distance, or energy expenditure when worn unpowered. In contrast, when powered on to provide an average 22.87 ± 0.58 %bodyweight of paretic plantarflexor force assistance during stance phase and assist the paretic dorsiflexors during swing phase to reduce drop-foot, study participants walked a median 0.14 ± 0.06 m/s faster during the 10-meter walk test and traveled 32 ± 8 m farther during the six minute walk test (P <; 0.05).
Conclusions: Individuals post-stroke can leverage the paretic plantarflexor and dorsiflexor assistance provided by soft robotic exosuits to achieve clinically-meaningful increases in speed and distance.