Veterans Affairs

Prosthetic ankle accommodates high heel shoes

Use of simple springs enables natural motion, stability and ease of switching between different heel heights

Medical & Biotechnology

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have recently developed a prosthetic foot-ankle system configured for use with various shoes having a wide range of heel heights. The patented technology is available via patent license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

The majority of commercially available prosthetic feet can only be used with shoes of a single heel height. The limited number of heel-height adjustable prosthetic feet suffer from a range of disadvantages including that they can only be used within a narrow range of heights (0 – 2 inches) and require manual alignment changes by the user. This restriction is primarily because their plantar insole shape does not change with a change in the sagittal plane ankle alignment. This mismatch can cause instability, reduced durability of the foot and shoe, and is not cosmetically appealing. The standard procedure is to have the prosthetist align the system with a particular pair of shoes and then educate the wearer on how to change the alignment for shoes with different heel heights.

Now, VA prosthetists have developed a foot-ankle system to accommodate a much broader range of heel heights. The joint incorporates a single-axis wiper design within an ankle plug, with bumpers that can be altered to change the plantarflexion and dorsiflexion stiffness. The plug fits into a socket on the 3D printed feet that take the alignment of the shoe into consideration. Thus the foot design is the part that handles the alignment.

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