Health & Wellbeing

No more crutches? Flex Leg provides mobility assistance

No more crutches? Flex Leg pro...
A simple concept, the Flex Leg props your injured leg for more natural movement (Photo: Flex Leg)
A simple concept, the Flex Leg props your injured leg for more natural movement (Photo: Flex Leg)
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A simple concept, the Flex Leg props your injured leg for more natural movement (Photo: Flex Leg)
A simple concept, the Flex Leg props your injured leg for more natural movement (Photo: Flex Leg)
Flex Leg employs aluminum and composite components (Photo: Flex Leg)
Flex Leg employs aluminum and composite components (Photo: Flex Leg)
Your hands are left completely free (Photo: Flex Leg)
Your hands are left completely free (Photo: Flex Leg)
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Sometimes the most advanced innovations are rooted in the simplest questions. In this case, the question was, "If we can help a person with no legs to run, why can’t we help a person with an injured leg to walk?" The answer was the Flex Leg.

As a mechanical engineering masters student at Brigham Young University, Mike Sanders pondered that question when staring at a poster of an athlete running with a compliant prosthetic leg. He thought that if we have come so far in the development of prosthetics as to allow amputee athletes to compete in the Olympics, then we should be able to offer injured people something more functional than a pair of crutches.

Sanders took that inspiration, along with his engineering know-how, enlisted the help of engineering colleague Mark Roberts, and got to work on a better mobility device for those with leg injuries. After several prototypes, they developed the Flex Leg that you see here – a prosthetic leg aimed specifically at those with full but injured lower limbs.

The Flex Leg offers several properties that its creators believe make it more functional than other mobility aids. It's obviously more natural, allowing you to walk like you would without a leg injury, unlike crutches, which put the burden of walking on your upper body. Your hands are also free, so that you can move and work like normal.

Your hands are left completely free (Photo: Flex Leg)
Your hands are left completely free (Photo: Flex Leg)

Thanks to aluminum and composite construction, the Flex Leg member is lightweight. It's flexible, so that you get natural shock absorption and spring in your step. According to its designers, it is more effective than other mobility aids at navigating the diverse terrain – bumps, stairs, hills, etc. – that the world throws at us on a daily basis.

Since developing the latest design, Sanders and Roberts have gotten some help from another BYU student, Seth Gonzalez. An MBA student, Gonzalez is essentially the business brains of the operation and is building partnerships to help bring the device to market.

The Flex Leg can't replace crutches for all types leg injuries (we can't imagine trying to put it around a leg cast), and it also looks like it could be uncomfortable when worn for extended periods of time, causing cramping and loss of blood flow. It is an interesting concept, however, that could work well for a variety of rehabilitation purposes.

Source: Flex Leg

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The Hoff
Besides the problems you brought up the thing needs to be longer on the leg and it looks like your setting your self up for wacking your broken foot on every thing in sight. An athlete might adapt to this but most people will get more injuries. I wish there was a video, I could use a laugh. I get ideas like this too but I only talk about the good ones.
Adrian Schuurmans
Yeah I can see banging the free leg, although it could be closer to upright I am sure....20degree angle insteadof 90. Also only works for possible ankle or shin problems I would think. Also a person with an amputation takes months/years to adjust. And last but not least $$$$.
Jim Lorriman
This is not new. A similar product has been on the market for a number of years. All the information is here:
Karsten Evans
Crutches are often used for back pain, hip joint pain etc. They often help to re align back, hips, pelvis.
What I would like is something like those 'blade' springs some athletes uses but as an addition to shoes. Have seen Ski Boot like 'blades' but would like something simpler to use with shoes that just uses the shoe as base.
Would solve problem with light to medium 'drop foot'.
Have been using MBT shoes and lately Sketchers. Still can't run though or walk too far as there is no inner ankle support
Natalija Jovanovic
Interesting and nice-looking, but not new. This is essentially a peg-leg, except it's not made of wood and it's not intended for amputees : ) (See Vuk Karadzic for an example from 1850 for similar use.)
Hi Chris, thanks for your article and interest in FlexLeg! We wanted to reach out and say thank you to the community. We've had a lot of interest generated and have now met a number of great people that help us to continue developing what we hope will be a great product in the market. A few of these comments are spot on, this device at it's core is not new. Peg-legs have been around for ever (insert pirate joke here). Then prosthetic technology came along and gave a huge leap forward in terms of mobility and stability to amputees who would previously have used a peg. In the same way we have created greater stability for hands-free crutch alternatives by adapting technology from prosthetics. We made it a point early on to gather input from doctors to make sure this device would be safe for patients. We have now talked with over 20 doctors from among orthopedic surgeons, podiatrists, physical therapists (arguable the experts in patients during the recovery stage), bracing specialists, etc. We are continuing to work with them to make sure this is safe for those with below-knee injuries. Thanks again for your article, and if people have questions feel free to reach out to us:
Seamus Clancy
Suffering a broken ankle at present and have to say this is such a great idea. It might take a while to get used to, but trust me Crutches are no picnic, and not being able to use your hands to carry food or anything else is a nightmare. You could always use 1 or both crutches as you get used to it.
Wish I could get my hands on one of these.