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National Study Evaluates Connection Between Prosthetics and a Woman’s Identity

Feb 28, 2024 |

Woman with one prosthetic leg and one leg with tattoos walks on a blue stripe. She is wearing camel-colored heels.

For women, the ability to wear a variety of shoes, including high heels, is often a choice that is taken for granted unless you are a woman with limb loss. This is why researchers at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center have launched a groundbreaking national study to target the unique needs of the female amputee population, which continues to grow. This study seeks to learn whether women gain psychological and social benefits from using modular prosthetic legs. Read the full story by Jeremy Olson for the Star Tribune 

While looking good makes people feel good, this study goes beyond just addressing aesthetics in the prosthetics industry. Modular prosthetic legs feature an ankle release which allows the user to easily switch out 3D-printed feet to wear different types of footwear. For the study 18 female veterans will have three customized feet made for them which they will use over a six-month period. The goal is to see if there is a positive impact on their quality of life for an extended period of time. 

Kelly Yun walks on a blue line in a room as Juan Cave watches her gait.According to prosthetist-orthotist, Juan Cave, who is on the research team, prosthetics are not covered by insurance unless they provide clinical benefits backed by research. “Just walk, that’s all that they care about…But now we’re introducing this type of product where you can put in a little cosmesis, you put a little personality into what you’re doing,” said prosthetist-orthotist, Juan Cave, who is on the research team. “So you can walk, but walk with style.” This study represents a pivotal shift in the development of prosthetics to encompass personal expression and style as well as functionality. 

Also behind the project is Kelly Yun, a VA prosthetic technician and designer, who lost her leg in a 2018 accident. Her fashion sense and love of high heels quickly led her to make a career pivot once she became an amputee. Like her who wanted to return to wearing the shoes she loved, Kelly knows other women have expressed wanting more than the limited options.  

Even men could also reap the benefits of the modular system which makes it easy to change into different shoes like work boots.