Daniel Fanchiang holds his orthotic prototype in front of a dry erase board

Student Profile: Daniel Fanchiang

When a person walks across a room, his feet typically move with a heel-to-toe motion. But for some, this gait pattern doesn’t come naturally.

Instead, they walk on their toes.

College of Education doctoral student Daniel Fanchiang has focused his dissertation on idiopathic toe walkers, or those people who walk on their toes, and how to help them achieve a more natural gait.

“If they walk on their toes before they turn three years old, it’s considered normal. But after three years, if they still walk on their toes and don’t have any neurological or musculoskeletal diseases, then it’s considered ‘idiopathic,’” Fanchiang explained. “That’s why we call it ‘idiopathic’ – because we don’t know the cause of it.”

Since becoming a doctoral student in the Department of Kinesiology and Health, Fanchiang has helped his adviser, Professor Mark Geil, analyze data from a study they conducted on idiopathic toe walkers and their gait patterns. It was during this analysis that Fanchiang began wondering if he could create an orthotic treatment that better addresses idiopathic toe walkers’ needs than those on the market presently, which typically hold a person’s ankle at 90 degrees.

“With our normal gait, we need our ankle to exceed 90 degrees at some point,” Fanchiang said. “I talked to my adviser and asked him, ‘Have you seen this kind of device for idiopathic toe walkers?’ and he said no. So I said, ‘I’m going to build it.’”

It took him about a year to create a prototype that locks and unlocks at the right time to give the person wearing it more flexibility in their movements. Fanchiang is in the process of applying for a non-provisional patent on his orthotic prototype, and though it’s still a long way from being manufactured and sold, he’s hopeful that it becomes an accepted form of treatment.

“We’ve gone to conferences and talked to companies that are interested in it, but it still needs more time before we put it on the market,” he said. “But I’m looking forward to that. I hope it helps give people a more natural gait.”

 
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