Purchasing a Left Foot

“You have BRAINS in your head.
You have FEET in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any
Direction you choose”
~Dr. Seuss

Red footIn our lifetime we make many important high-ticket purchases. Many of them we spend weeks, months, even years weighing the options and searching for the best deal. Some of these purchases will have a significant impact our lives, such as a house or a car. We do our research, we tour many housing options, we test-drive cars and in many cases we can demo products, all to ensure we make the smartest purchase to fit our budget, suit our needs and improve our lives. My recent decision-making purchase has made buying a car or a house seem like child’s play. How in the world do you make the right choice in purchasing your left foot?

Will the BRAINS in my head
Pick the best FOOT for my shoes?
Will I be able to steer myself in the
DIRECTION I hope to choose?

The natural foot and ankle make up a very complicated structure. I found this out the green foothard way after destroying a very crucial component eight years ago. The human foot and ankle is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 major muscles and tendons. They all work together to make a strong, complex mechanical machine. Our feet allow us to stand upright, walk, run and jump. Indeed, it’s an extremely difficult machine to replicate with carbon fiber.

Yet despite the complexity of the human foot, modern technology has done an outstanding job creating prosthetic feet. There is a foot for every activity out there. And with any there aren’t a foot for, you can be sure that someone is in the process of creating one. Prosthetic feet are made for a huge range of users. There are feet for the low-activity amputee to the active high-impact sports-minded amputee and anywhere in between. Ossur makes 19 different adult feet alone. Then there are running blades, swimming fins, climbing feet, feet that clip into a ski binding and feet that clip onto a bike peddle. If you have the bucks there is a foot out there for everything you could possibly want to do. Unfortunately, most amputees don’t have the money to own a foot for each of the activities they enjoy, making finding the overall one foot that will function for all aspects of their lifestyle critical.

clean footI own a house, a car and many other valuable and wonderful possessions. However, the most precious possessions I own are my prosthetic leg and my crutches. They are the most valuable to me because they are my mobility, my independence, and without them I would not have the quality of life I currently enjoy. One of these two possessions is with me at all times and never more than an arm’s reach away. They are so important to me that I have had moments of panic in the car where I have had to stop to double check to ensure the leg was on or the crutches were resting on the passenger seat.

So how do I choose the foot that will determine my lifestyle for the next three to five dirty footyears? Which foot will make my everyday walking comfortable, work efficiently for biking, give me good function for yard work / household projects, and yet give me the shock absorption I need to protect my body while doing high-impact sports activities? I do my research, weigh my options and hope I make the right choice for me. It’s sort of like trying to have a fast sports car and heavy duty pick-up all in one, due to a one-car budget.

Three of the largest companies that make feet are Ossur, Ottbrock and RUSH Foot. So, not only do you need to choose which foot will give you the function you need, you need to decide which company produces the highest quality. Shockingly, just like Ford, Toyota and Honda, they all claim to be the best. And just as in buying a high-level car, when buying a high-functioning foot the reviews are pretty much all the same. It’s wonderful or it sucks, and a foot is so personal that what works great for one person’s body might not work at all for someone else. Without actually taking several different feet for a test run, can you really make the best choice the first time around?

small footAt my last socket casting appointment for the new leg, I had the opportunity to try out one of the possibilities. Through much research and reading what users of the many different feet had to say, I narrowed it down to two options. They are both top of the line, high-functioning feet. One boasts about having rotation ability, while the other one lays claim to having the best vertical shock absorption. While my prosthetist was cleaning up, we began discussing the two feet and I mentioned that it was an impossible decision to make without being able to test them out for a few days. As it turned out, he had the foot featuring the rotation currently in the office. He attached it on to my prosthesis and I had the opportunity to take it for a walk. I loved the foot and the rotation feature was nice. After pretending to do golf swings and anything else to make the foot rotate, I ultimately decided the heavy duty vertical shock absorption would serve me better.

Have I made the right choice? I have no idea. I choose the one that in the specifications my footclaims it will give me the best function I am looking for. The magic words were “offers the best vertical shock absorption of all our mechanical feet. With dynamic energy return and all-around responsiveness the foot is a great choice for active users.” The day of my last fitting, I will have the chance to spend as much time as I want walking around the office inside and outside to see what I think. If I don’t like it I will have the opportunity to reject the foot, however once it leaves the premises it’s mine to keep. That all sounds wonderful, but I will also have a whole new socket to become accustomed to, so will I really be able to make a determination on the foot that day? I have made plenty of poor consumer choices in my life and many excellent ones. The foot I tried was pretty darn nice, so if it is even a tiny bit better than the one I tried I will be thrilled.

I am super excited to take possession of my new high-tech leg and foot. Every component of the leg will be carbon fiber black and super gadget looking. The function is most important, but if you can’t have your real leg, you might as well have your fake one look super cool. Shorts will be a must to show it off! The jury is still out on whether I made the right foot choice, so stay tuned. The full report will be out in a few weeks.

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About Darryl Partridge

I am a husband, father of three and amputee. I was active all my life, a Certified Ski Instructor, DYI enthusiast and Elementary Special Education Teacher. My life came crashing down when I was 42 years old after suffering a life changing ankle injury. I endured six ankle surgeries that forever changed the anatomy of my lower left leg, ten leg casts, recovery time on crutches that added up in the years and debilitating pain. In the end wound up with a deformed lower leg, chronic pain and unable to walk without crutches. Oh yeah, I also lost my teaching job after the third surgery. Being left a 47 year old unemployed disabled father. I took two years to rebuilt my life using crutches full time, achieving a new career in public health and preparing to amputate my leg. I amputated my lower left leg 9/24/14, 15 months post amputation became a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. Follow me on my life without limits journey as an amputee. I now hope my stories will help others find some support and comfort in living with their disabilities. Explore my website Lifebeyond4limbs.com .com to read my story.
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