Students Design High Heel Capable Prosthetic for Military Service Amputees
Orange County, CA - October 17th 2017 - Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland have developed Prominence, a Prosthetic Foot that can be worn with heels up to 4 inches high. The innovative design is meant to meet the demand among women veteran amputees. The student researchers reported that nearly 2,100 American women have lost a leg or foot in military service and with more women entering combat assignments, the demand for a prosthetic that can accommodate women’s fashion footwear is sure to grow.
Most prosthetic feet are designed to fit men’s shoes and cannot adjust to a heel height exceeding 2 inches. Additionally, any prosthetics designed with female specifications are custom made and are therefore costly. The Prominence is the first Prosthetic Foot on the market to accommodate a variety of women at a standard cost.
“High heels have become an integral part of the female lifestyle in modern society, permeating through all aspects of life – professional and social,” the five students who graduated in May from the university’s Whiting School of Engineering wrote in their report. “For female veterans of the U.S. armed services with lower limb amputations, that seemingly innocuous, but so pervasive, and decidedly feminine part of their lives is gone.”
Following a defined set of parameters in designing the prosthetic, the team sought to create a foot that adjusts to a range of heel heights that holds positioning, weighs under 3lbs, supports up to 250lbs, and fits into a standard women’s shoe.
After two semesters of work and dozens of models, the team landed on a promising apparatus. They built a heel-adjustment mechanism with two interlocking aluminum disks that open and close with an attached lever at the ankle. For the ankle, they used an off-the-shelf hydraulic unit to support a smooth gait and flexing at the sole. Using four types of women’s shoes, the team had the foot tested by seven people. Three were amputees; four were non-amputees who attached the foot to the bottom of a cumbrous boot to resemble walking on stilts.
One of the amputees involved in the trial, Alexandra Capellini, spoke about the adjustable heel’s benefits accommodate more than high heeled shoes. “An adjustable ankle is useful in contexts even beyond high heels. Ballet flats, sneakers, boots, and high heels especially, all vary in height, so an adjustable ankle opens up opportunities to wear a variety of shoes.”
A work in progress the Prominence unit requires more research and testing before becoming commercially available. “I think the final prototype produced showed the way forward,” said Nathan Scott, a senior lecturer in the Whiting School’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and an advisor to the group. “As usual we just need to go around the design & prototyping loop one more time.” The students- who presented the Prominence as their final senior project in mechanical engineering- hope their work will help the growing number of service women looking for a fashion alternative.
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