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Ankle Exoskeleton: Research & Development

Hi REI Hiking Community!

I'm a UConn Engineering Graduate Student currently working an internship for a medical device startup in Connecticut focused on building passive ankle exoskeletons to help offloading forces in the foot and achilles tendon. So far it's shown positive results in reducing foot load and we're currently studying it's capabilities in increasing healing speed and reducing recurrence rates of diabetic foot ulcers.

Currently, we are exploring other areas in which a passive (unpowered) ankle exoskeleton could be beneficial. One of these areas is hiking. The ankle exoskeleton acts as a spring, with elastic tendons storing/releasing energy in parallel with the achilles/gastroc during the walk cycle. The exoskeleton is still in design in how it fits within your shoe/boot.  They are very lightweight and silent, and may be beneficial for long thru-hikers.

I'm wondering what hikers' thoughts are on using exoskeletons on their hikes?

5 Replies

Sounds interesting.  As an experienced runner and hiker, i would be happy to try a pair and report/ critique the results.

       so far, the traditional enclosed skeleton is doing just fine.


Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Most hikers that do long distances are serious about weight so you need to justify the add with the gain in speed or distance.  Weekend backpackers and especially winter hikers carry more weight so it might be a specific use case that this supports within the community.  Interesting though....I am doing the Appalachian Trail in February 2022 and could potentially test something if ready. 

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I've just started to have my ankles " talk " to me. I'm older , just a day hiker & trail runner and I'm open to anything to prolongs my life as a hiker, makes it easier. I've started using a ionto patch, have a splint that an ankle foot doc gave me ( which is ok, fits poorly ),so yeah- I know you said long distance but I'd be open to try.

Consider: thermal transmission of both heat and cold - frostbite, hot spots, cooling, heating of foot; blisters, abrasion, compatibility with different footwear (low, medium and high boots), wear and tear on socks and boots on long hikes; durability; ability to repair in field; adjustability to accommodate for existing foot conditions (hotspots, blisters etc.). 

“Take care of the earth”

Thank you very much for your input! There are definitely some aspects you mentioned that we would not have thought of without consulting real hikers like yourself.