This New Prosthetic Lets Amputees Wear High Heels


Students at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, have developed an adjustable prosthetic foot with female veterans in mind. The prosthesis, called Prominence, has an adjustable ankle that allows the user to wear heels up to four inches high.

According to a Johns Hopkins press release while there are numerous options for prosthetic feet on the market, most are designed to fit men’s shoes and none can adjust to a heel more than two inches high.

“High heels have become an integral part of the female lifestyle in modern society, permeating through all aspects of life – professional and social,” wrote the five students who graduated earlier this month from the university’s Whiting School of Engineering in their final project 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.”

The students sought to bring it back. However, creating a prosthetic foot that can work with a four-inch high heel is not an easy task.

Related: This Marine Vet Is The First Recipient Of A Revolutionary Prosthetic Hand »

First they had to design a foot that adjusts to a range of heel heights without a separate tool. It also had to hold the position without slipping, support up to 250 pounds, weigh less than three pounds, and of course, be slender enough to accommodate high heel shoes.

According to Luke Brown, one of the Johns Hopkins students, the human foot “took thousands of years of evolution to get this way, we have one year to match it.”

Over two semesters, the students fielded a number of prototypes: one with a balloon in the heel it give some spring in the step — that didn’t work. Another idea involved a mouse-trap spring, also a no go.

The final design used a mechanism with two interlocking aluminum disks that open and close with an attached lever at the ankle. An off-the-shelf hydraulic unit was used for the ankle to allow for a smooth gait.

Prominence was tested by seven people, including three amputees. While the initial goal was to create a foot that could work with high heels, an adjustable prosthetic means even greater flexibility for amputees once Prominence hits the market.

“I had a good time walking [with it],” said  Alexandra Capellini, a junior at Johns Hopkins University, who lost her right leg to bone cancer as a child. “It felt stable … 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.”

Photo courtesy of Johns Hopkins University Senior Design Team
(U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center via Associated Press)

Step through the Cinder Lake Crater Field roughly 12 miles outside Flagstaff, Ariz., and you might encounter a white crystal-filled rock that has absolutely no business being there.

The chunks of anorthosite weren't deposited there by nature — they were trucked in from the mountains around Pasadena, Calif. And the craters were carved not by meteors, but by fertilizer and dynamite.

Before the first man landed on the moon, NASA dispatched the Apollo astronauts to this volcanic field to search for these and other faux moon rocks.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Army)

A soldier who died in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, from a non-combat related incident on July 18 was identified by the Pentagon as Sgt. William Friese, a West Virginia Army National Guard soldier assigned to the 821st Engineer Company, 1092nd Engineer Battalion, 111th Engineer Brigade.

Read More Show Less
Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office

A South Florida city founded by World War II veterans wants to make it easier for fellow veterans to park.

The West Miami city commission passed an initiative Wednesday to designate "veterans only" parking spaces in the city, which is nestled between the Tamiami Trail and Coral Way.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

Navy Airman Uriel Gerardo-Olivas wanted to hire a hitman to murder another sailor he says had threatened his life and the lives of his girlfriend and baby.

But, he had a problem.

He didn't have the money.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matt Herbst.

Search and rescue efforts have ended without locating a sailor from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, who was reported overboard on Wednesday, Navy officials have announced.

Read More Show Less