Bionic Feats: Challenging Terrain

Bionic Legs and Feet Challenging Terrains

As lower-limb bionic technologies improve, users naturally want to venture beyond “safe” surfaces and go wherever they want. This requires the same kind of adaptability offered by natural legs/feet. It also requires a high level of device tolerance for dust, water, and other environmental elements. Fortunately, bionic scientists and engineers seem to be up to these challenges.

Rocky Trails

The Empower Ankle featured in this video is the gold standard for “off-road” activities. It is difficult to spot any difference in this double-amputee’s ability to navigate this terrain versus that of a trail runner with 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 Odyssey Ankle 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.

Ottobock X3

This video demonstrates the Ottobock X3 handling multiple 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.

Blatchford Linx Integrated Limb

A very capable bionic limb that includes both the microprocessor knee and ankle components. Its capabilities are not as extreme as those of Ottobock X3 or Empower Ankle but it is substantially less expensive than the $150,000 US it would cost you to combine those extraordinary technologies.

We don’t know about you, but we are inspired and encouraged by these technologies. Yes, they’re still much 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.

Related Information

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

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