Ankle-foot orthoses and continuous functional electrical stimulation improve walking speed after stroke: a systematic review and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials



Foot-drop is a common impairment after stroke, which reduces walking ability.


To examine the efficacy of interventions aimed at reducing foot-drop, i.e., ankle-foot orthoses and functional electrical stimulation, on walking speed and balance after stroke.

Data sources

MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane, PsycINFO, and PEDro databases.

Eligibility criteria

The review included only parallel, randomized trials. Participants were ambulatory adults after stroke. The experimental interventions were the use of an ankle-foot orthosis or functional electrical stimulation.

Data synthesis

Outcome data related to walking speed and balance were extracted from the eligible trials and combined in random-effects meta-analyses. The quality of trials was assessed by the PEDro scores and the quality of evidence was determined according the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation system.


Eleven trials involving 1135 participants were included. The mean PEDro score of the trials was 5.8 (ranging from 4 to 7). Ankle-foot orthoses (MD 0.24 m/s; 95% CI 0.06 to 0.41) and functional electrical stimulation (MD 0.09 m/s; 95% CI 0.03 to 0.14) significantly increased walking speed, compared with no intervention/placebo. Results regarding balance were inconclusive. Ankle-foot orthoses were not superior to functional electrical stimulation for improving walking speed (MD 0.00 m/s; 95% CI -0.06 to 0.05) or balance (MD 0.27 points on the Berg Balance Scale; 95% CI -0.85 to 1.39) after stroke.


This systematic review provided moderate-quality evidence that both ankle-foot orthoses and functional electrical stimulation improve walking speed after stroke, but the effects on balance remain unclear.

Systematic Review Registration Number

PROSPERO CRD42019130988