Let’s Talk Socks

Evelyn Streit, Columnist

PhD candidate at Australia’s University of Melbourne Deepti Aggarwal has created a new invention. Socks for Physiotherapy, or SoPhy “smart socks,” are socks designed with electronic sensors that connect to the internet creating better and more useful checkups between doctors and patients. For people with lower limb problems, these socks could make a big difference in their treatment and recovery experience.

According to New Atlas, the socks transmit data to the internet using an app on the patient’s smartphone. The sock’s sensors are also able to measure the patient’s weight distribution, range of foot movement, and foot orientation. Over the web, physiotherapists conducting video consultations can receive real-time readings of this data and quickly assess a subject’s problems and progress.

Critics still ask why are the socks important, then, if people could just use regular video checkups. While using services like Skype to perform exams, doctors are able to watch patients go through exercises, like walking or squats, but sometimes videos can be misleading. According to New Atlas, there are many tricks that people can use even without realizing it, such as pushing through their heels or toes, and avoid actually putting weight on the injured leg. These are difficult to notice through video. The socks fix that issue.

So, the socks are beneficial to people living far away or in remote locations. The ability to contact professionals from the comfort of their own home is helpful because it saves time and money. Also, patients can do the exercises in a familiar setting rather than the doctor’s office.  

The system has already been tested on three patients with chronic pain. According to Cosmos the Science of Everything, SoPhy increased the physiotherapists’ ability to figure out what patients were actually doing and better tweak their movements to create a healthier result. Also, according to New Atlas, the socks were able to boost the therapist’s confidence in their diagnosis, making both the patient and physiotherapist feel more assured.

According to Cosmos the Science of Everything, these smart socks helped Aggarwal to win the Victorian Fresh Science award (a part of a national program that praises early-career researchers and provides them with a platform to share their work). Right now the socks cost around $230 in the United States, but if manufactured on a larger scale it is likely that the price would drop and, for some people, a one-time purchase is actually cheaper than the cost of constant trips to the clinic. These socks have made huge changes and advancements in the ways that patients and doctors work together in treatment, and will hopefully help many people on their road to recovery in the future.