Neil set to walk the “Race to the King” event with help of unique SAFO

A former rugby player whose life has been transformed by Dorset Orthopaedic’s revolutionary silicone ankle foot orthosis (SAFO), is taking on an epic walking challenge later this year.

Neil Joisce, from Southampton, has been wearing a SAFO on his ankle for more than ten years after hearing about it from a friend, and needs it to correct the effects of drop foot. He acquired the condition after suffering a devastating knee injury while playing a rugby match, which also severed the peroneal nerve that controls flexion of the foot when walking.

Now a special educational needs teacher and Tottonians RFC coach, Neil has decided to take on a true test of endurance and stamina by walking the Race to the King event.

Covering 80kms of the South Downs, starting at the Slindon Estate near Arundel and finishing at Winchester Cathedral, the event is equivalent to two off-road marathons, has a total climb of 5,051ft, and will take around 24 hours to complete.

“I’m doing it to prove to myself that I can do something like this, that I am more than able,” said the dad of two. “The last challenge I did was the Reading Half Marathon in 2008, but I’ve not done anything since. I think this will be more mentally challenging than physically but I’m excited to take it on.”

The event, which starts on June 22nd, attracts a crowd of more than 1,000 participants — many walking, some running. Neil will be walking with a team of dads from his local area, and they’ve decided not to take the option of camping between the days and continuing their walk through the night, aiming to finish at 6am on June 23rd.

“I think walking through the night will be the biggest challenge,” he said. “And I have issues with my good knee now so walking downhill could also be a struggle. But I’ve been training hard, walking our dog further every day, so hopefully it’ll all go well and I can build on this for another challenge in future.”

Neil’s SAFO will help him walk smoothly across the varied terrain of the walk far better than a conventional rigid AFO, which is more restrictive. 

He said: “I love my SAFO because it’s so comfortable and helps me move so much more freely and be more active. And because it’s got so much more flexibility within its structure, I’ll be able to deal with all the terrains on the walk, whether its gravel pathways or bumpy fields. It’s going to be the perfect partner for my challenge.”