First of a Kind Foot for Female Amputees: Medicine’s Next Big Thing?


BALTIMORE, Md. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — There are nearly two million Americans living with limb loss and those numbers continue to grow as wounded servicemen and women return home. After losing a leg to an injury, or disease, it takes time to adjust to a prosthetic limb. Now, a team of engineers and medical experts is widening the options for women.

Twenty-one-year-old Alexandra Capellini is an active college senior. She’s in flats on the sloping campus walkways, but loves the look of high heels.

Capellini told Ivanhoe, “Heels are what most of what women like to wear when you’re going out or even adjusting to seasons.”

Capellini lost her leg above the right knee to bone cancer at age seven. Adjusting her prosthetic limb is second nature.

Now Johns Hopkins University mechanical engineers and medical experts are designing a new foot for female amputees.

Joey Tilson, a mechanical engineering student at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, explained, “The highest prosthetics go is zero to two inches. We wanted to make one that goes zero to four. One of the biggest challenges we faced was having to mimic the ball of the foot. Whenever you stand in a high heel condition it’s different than standing in a flat foot condition, so a lot of weight is shifted. The big toe is what keeps you from falling forward.” (Read Full Interview)

The foot holds position with an ankle lever. The goal: a quick adjustment, so a woman could wear heels to a party and kick them off to dance.

Engineering professor Nathan Scott, Ph.D., said, “You don’t get out a screwdriver to adjust your feet usually when you adjust your shoes.”

Capellini loves the concept, but also the attention it brings to those living without limbs.

“I think the bigger picture is emphasizing options for female amputees,” said Capellini.

The prosthetic foot is made from a carbon fiber, and weighs about a pound and a half. The mechanical engineering students designed the foot, which they called “The Prominence” as part of their final senior project. Although it is in the early stages, the foot is believed to be the first that could adapt up to four inches in height.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.



TOPIC:       First of a Kind Foot for Female Amputees: Medicine’s Next Big Thing?

REPORT:   MB #4208


BACKGROUND:   There are nearly 2 million people in America living with a limb loss, and every day more than 500 Americans lose a limb. The decision to amputate may occur due to diabetes, trauma, infections, heart disease or cancer.

PROSTHETIC LIMBS FOR WOMEN: According to the Amputee Coalition statistics, only about 20 percent of people in the United States with traumatic amputations are women; nevertheless, women are less likely to be successfully fitted with a prosthetic limb after amputation than men. Furthermore, women have more challenges when it comes to their prosthetic leg for cosmetic reasons.  For female amputees, wearing heels can be challenging. Normally, the highest prosthetics go is from zero to two inches. Five mechanical engineer students at John Hopkins University wanted to make a prosthetic leg that would be able to go up from zero to four, so they created “The Prominence.”
(Source:, & Joey Tilson)

THE PROMINENCE: The “Prominence” would allow women to adjust their prosthetic to the shoe they’re wearing without having to switch out the foot. Engineers had to create a foot that would adjust to different heights without a separate tool, would support up to 250 pounds, would weigh less than three pounds, and was slender enough to fit in a woman’s shoe or heel.  The biggest challenge the students faced was having to mimic the ball of the foot, because standing in high heels is different than standing flat since the weight is shifted. After several attempts, the base of the foot was created with a 28-layer carbon fiber footplate. For the ankle, engineers used a hydraulic unit that allows for a smooth gait and is flexible at the sole.  They also built a heel-adjustment mechanism with two interlocking aluminum disks that would allow a woman to adjust the height of the heel whenever she wants. (Source:  Nathan Scott, Joey Tilson &


Arthur Hirsch

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Doctor Q and A

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