Bionic Feats: Challenging Terrain

SpringActive Odyssey Ankle Challenging Terrain

As lower-limb bionic technologies improve, users naturally want to venture beyond “safe” surfaces and go wherever they want. Here are a few examples of this.

Rocky Trails

The Empower Ankle featured in this video is the current gold standard for “off-road” activities when it comes to bionic ankles/feet. It is difficult to spot any difference in this double amputee’s ability to navigate this terrain versus that of a trail runner with all-natural limbs.

Mulch Piles

Empower Ankle again. Think about the foot dynamics going on here, i.e. the slippage, the varying levels of surface support, and the need for constant adjustment. The sensor capabilities and adjustment algorithms in the Empower are insane!


Last Empower Ankle example, we promise. This double amputee’s traversal up and down a grass ditch is literally a walk in the park. Medicare and Medicaid, if you’re reading this, please make this technology reimbursable now. That goes for you, too, private insurance execs!

Running & Water

This video is a bit longer than we like to show in these segments, but it’s well worth the 5-minute watch. For one, it shows the user wearing a SpringActive prototype ankle (now the property of Ossur) to switch from walking to running, taking a dip in a pond, and a lot of other amazing features. Very impressive technology.

The preceding videos all demonstrated the exceptional technologies available to below-the-knee amputees for traversing challenging terrains. Thankfully, there are some great technologies are available for above-the-knee amputees, too.

Cross-country Hiking and Swimming

This video demonstrates the Ottobock Genium X3 handling challenging outdoor terrains with ease. In terms of adaptability, this device is to bionic knees what the Empower Ankle is to bionic ankles. You can even combine these two technologies. Note, however, that the X3 is fully waterproof, whereas the Empower Ankle is not.

Running on the Beach, Slippery Rocks

This video shows an Ottobock Genium X3 user running on the beach. If you skip the middle section about stairs, it also shows a user traversing some very slippery/treacherous rocks. You have to be incredibly confident in your prosthesis to try this!

Varied Terrain with a Fully Integrated Bionic Knee & Ankle

True, these aren’t the type of outdoor feats you see with the Genium X3. But there are other benefits to having a fully integrated bionic knee and ankle, as is the case with Blatchford’s Linx. And it’s good to see that those benefits don’t have to compromise the user’s ability to handle rugged, varied terrain.

We don’t know about you but we are inspired and encouraged by these technologies. Yes, they’re still too expensive. Yes, public and private insurance is not yet embracing their use and even obstructing it at times. But the first step to helping lower-limb amputees regain their full mobility was always to develop the technologies first.

Step Two is to raise awareness of the technologies, both among those who need them and among the general public as a means of garnering broad support.

We will deal with the proverbial money men in Step Three.

For a complete description of all current lower-limb technologies, devices, and research, see our comprehensive guide.