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

On Saturday, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point graduated the most diverse class in the academy's history.

Read More Show Less

PORTLAND — They are "the honored dead" for this special day each year, on Memorial Day.

But for the rest of the year, America's war dead of the 20th century can be far removed from the nation's awareness.

The final resting places of some 124,000-plus U.S. servicemen are at far-away hallowed grounds not always known to their countrymen.

They are America's overseas military cemeteries.

Read More Show Less

NEWPORT — The explosion and sinking of the ship in 1943 claimed at least 1,138 lives, and while the sea swallowed the bones there were people, too, who also worked to shroud the bodies.

The sinking of the H.M.T. Rohna was the greatest loss of life at sea by enemy action in the history of U.S. war, but the British Admiralty demanded silence from the survivors and the tragedy was immediately classified by the U.S. War Department.

Michael Walsh of Newport is working to bring the story of the Rohna to the surface with a documentary film, which includes interviews with some of the survivors of the attack. Walsh has interviewed about 45 men who were aboard the ship when it was hit.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Marine Corps photo

Editor's note: this story originally appeared in 2018

How you die matters. Ten years ago, on Memorial Day, I was in Fallujah, serving a year-long tour on the staff and conducting vehicle patrols between Abu Ghraib and Ramadi. That day I attended a memorial service in the field. It was just one of many held that year in Iraq, and one of the countless I witnessed over my 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Like many military veterans, Memorial Day is not abstract to me. It is personal; a moment when we remember our friends. A day, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth."

Read More Show Less

Arnold Zuniga walked quickly, quietly, to the wall of the fallen and dragged his finger across the name of the childhood friend who never came back.

Read More Show Less