Sunday, July 21, 2013

Feets-I got 'em!

So the question was posed last week here about swim feet.

For those who are brand new here or just not terribly observant, I'm one of those folks who is missing a foot and part of a leg, and I make up for it with a batch of "store-bought" feet, each tailored to a special function.

So for you, my readers, and for anyone else who should have questions about prosthetics and their capabilities/limitations, here's the promised post about them, at least from my point of view.

Mere mortals only have one left foot. I, being enhanced, have three of them.

Most of the time, I just used this one.
It's a low-profile carbon-fiber blade ensconced on a foam foot-shaped shell that allows regular shoes to fit properly. This one is tuned and balanced for shock absorption and energy return (meaning there's a bit of spring in the step), and if I've got long pants on, you'll never notice anything different unless I'm sore or tired, in which case I will begin to develop a bit of a limp. But for a year, I worked in an office where I was surrounded by people who did not know that I had this. With this foot, I can walk for miles, sprint short distances, slow jog, or kick people should I choose to. This is the one that I use for hiking, biking, piloting and motorcycle riding. I've also been known to take it off to use it as a bat in impromptu baseball games, to win drinks in bar bets, and to scare small children who annoy me. It's pretty much suction-fit around a liner that I wear and it's held in place by the neoprene sleeve at the top It's not terribly secure, but it gives me in incredible range of motion such as I could not get with the traditional and more common pin-mounting systems where the leg locks onto a pin on the bottom of the liner.

Next, I have this running foot, which tends to be a bit more conspicuous.
Yeah, there's no hiding this one. But when I run with it, it sends a message: "Look what I can do, bitches!"
This one is suction fit too, and it uses the same liner as my walking foot above, so I don't have to switch liners when changing feet like I had to with my first-generation feet. (Both of these are second-generation, meaning that they are subsequent to my originals.) This one is much springier and gives pretty good energy return, enabling me to run and to an extent, jump with it.

Then there's the swim foot.
This one I use for swimming and scuba diving. It's handy for this as the ankle articulates with the punch of a button, allowing the foot to swing down and lock into a swimming position like so:
Fins fit on it great and I've used this one and it's predecessor on a few dive trips this far. This one uses a pin on a separate liner to lock in place a bit more securely as pressure and water will combine to break the seal on a suction-fit-only set-up. (Ask me how I know this...)

As is typical of bureaucracies, the insurance entity that pays for these critters refused to pony up for a swim foot, rejecting the request as swimming and scuba diving are not essential functions" and thus I was not eligible for such a foot. So my prosthetist, being nothing if not savvy, re-submitted the request, this time specifying that the foot was needed so that I could stand in a shower as my regular walking foot is not approved for such activity. THAT they approved, so I got a $16,000 "shower leg", complete with articulating ankle.

And yeah, these things now cost about $16,000 each. They're custom made just to fit me and have a life-expectancy of 3-5 years, at which time they need to be replaced.

Here's $48K, not including the cost of liners ($120.00 each, and I have over a dozen) and lots of special socks to help tighten the fit.

And here are two first-generation legs that currently reside in my basement, having been worn out.
They were a little cheaper a few years ago at only $15K each.

That running leg is the one that I used to run the Army Ten Miler back in 2008. My goal is to run it again one of these years, and ideally work up to a marathon. Sadly, I'm back working full time and work gets in the way of training. And honestly, I'm also not getting younger or lighter. But I'm still fighting that fight, not being ready to give up yet.

Sure, these legs can be a bit of a pain at times, and they don't always fit right or work without hurting, but when all is said and done, they really aren't very limiting at all if you really want to do something and are willing to do your part. And besides, they're lots of fun at airport metal detectors if you feel like making TSA work for it for a few minutes.
("I have no idea why that keeps beeping. I've taken all the metal out of my pockets...")

Hey, why have a plastic leg if you're not going to have fun with it, right?

And remember-just because something's part plastic, that doesn't mean that it's sub-par.
Steel and plastic limbs--not the end of the world by any means.

And anyone reading this is always free to drop me a comment asking questions. If you don't want the question or answer made public, include an e-mail address and I won't post either of them.


  1. How "springy" is the running foot, and it the impact painful when you run?

  2. This post is awesome. Fact Jack.

  3. Anonymous10:32 PM

    Thank-You for sharing this story with us

  4. @Suzanne: It's designed to provide enough bounce to allow me to run. Very comfortable but only when running. It's actually useless for walking.

  5. Great post! Thanks!

  6. I knew you had the one, but not the running and swimming ones! Nice 'adaptation' by the doc too! :-)

  7. Thanks for sharing, that's gotta be a little nerve-wracking to discuss.
    Now, you've GOT to post a video of you scaring the kids with the leg. Or using it as a baseball bat.
    Or better, we could use it as a unipod for the shoot in a couple of weeks...

  8. Great post and although I don't have limbs in common with you, I do have Glocks.:) Best of luck.