Mechanical and dynamic characterization of prosthetic feet for high activity users during weighted and unweighted walking

Sara R. Koehler-McNicholas*, Eric A. Nickel, Kyle Barrons, Kathryn E. Blaharski, Clifford A. Dellamano, Samuel F. Ray, Barri L. Schnall, Brad D. Hendershot, Andrew H. Hansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Many Service members and Veterans with lower-limb amputations have the potential for high function and the desire to resume physically demanding occupations that require them to carry heavy loads (e.g., military service, firefighters, farmers, ranchers, construction workers). However, it is currently unclear which prosthetic feet best accommodate heavy load carriage while also providing good overall function and mobility during unweighted activities. The main objective of this study was to investigate the ability of currently available prosthetic ankle-foot systems to accommodate weighted walking by examining the mechanical characteristics (i.e., forefoot stiffness) and dynamic function (i.e., rocker radius, effective foot length ratio, and late-stance energy return) of prosthetic feet designed for high activity users. Load versus deflection curves were obtained for nine prosthetic ankle-foot systems using a servohydraulic test frame and load cell. Effective roll-over shape characteristics and late-stance energy return measures were then obtained using quantitative gait analysis for three users with unilateral, transtibial amputation. Results from mechanical and dynamic testing showed that although forefoot stiffness varied across the nine feet investigated in this study, changes measured in roll-over shape radius and effective foot length ratio were relatively small in response to weighted walking. At the same time, prosthetic feet with more compliant forefoot keel structures appeared to provide more late-stance energy return compared to feet with stiffer forefoot keel structures. These results suggest that prosthetic ankle-foot systems with compliant forefoot keel structures may better accommodate weighted walking by reducing the metabolic cost of physically demanding activities. However, to more fully understand the biomechanical and functional implications of these results, other factors, such as the residual-limb strength of the user and the overall stiffness profile of the prosthetic foot, should also be considered.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0202884
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes


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