More than three-quarters of Americans have suffered from foot pain, the American Podiatric Medical Association reported a few years ago.
Tendonitis and plantar fasciitis are common complaints, and treatments can include stretching and splints. Patients don’t always comply with stretching regimens, however. And night splints are not “super comfortable to sleep with,” explained podiatrist Dr. Patrick DeHeer, himself a patient with posterior tibial tendonitis. “Patients are always complaining about waking up with them. I consistently woke up in the middle of the night while sleeping on my side with my knee bent. I realized the night splint wasn't doing anything, because to effectively stretch your calf muscle, you have to have the knee fully extended.”
DeHeer decided to develop an alternative. He focused on addressing equinus, described by the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons as “a condition in which the upward bending motion of the ankle joint is limited.”
"The term equinus comes from equine. Its correlation is walking on the toes compared to a horse hoof, ” DeHeer told MD+DI.
“Studies show patients with equinus have higher incidence of foot and ankle pain,” he continued. “It has accurately been termed ‘the root of all foot evils’ for a reason. Management of equinus either conservatively or surgically has been shown to reduce foot and ankle pain.”
To help patients stretch the two calf muscles associated with equinus—the gastrocnemius and soleus—DeHeer created The Equinus Brace along with John Moorin and Ricky Heath. Launched under the company name IQ Med LLC, The Equinus Brace is intended to address Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and more than 30 other foot and ankle disorders.
The Equinus Brace only needs to be used for one hour a day, unlike night splints. According to the company, it is the only brace for equinus that extends above the knee, maintaining the knee in full extension while dorsiflexing the ankle. A patented toe wedge isolates the dorsiflexion force to the hindfoot as well as externally rotates the tibia to fully extend the knee. Adjustable ankle hinges promote gradual, safe stretching, the company stated in a brochure.
IQ Med reported in a news release that “Medicare covers The Equinus Brace, as do nearly all insurance companies.” In June a shorter brace launched for children and smaller adults, called "The Equinus Brace 2.0.”
IQ Med plans to launch a consumer version by the first quarter of next year.