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Prosthetic Leg: To Cover or Not to Cover?

Posted by Bryan Potok, CPO on

When I first started my career as a Prosthetist in the late 90s, most—if not all—of my patients preferred to cover their prosthetic legs. Leaving prosthetic legs bare wasn’t the standard, to say the least. Covering prosthetic limbs and hiding the fact that one is a prosthetic wearer was the trend. 

A prosthetic leg cover designed by Alleles Design Studio Image by Alleles Design Studio

If someone chose to wear their prosthesis without a cover at that time, it was usually done out of convenience rather than a way to express their mettle. As a Prosthetist, I typically lean towards uncovered prosthetic legs because adjusting and realigning a prosthesis is even more difficult with a cover in the way. In fact, during the last decade, many a prosthetic cover were left damaged due to repeated removal to access the prosthetic components. Because of this, prosthetic covers are usually the last thing applied after receiving a new prosthetic leg. 

A badge of pride

Today, more and more people are choosing to bare their prosthetic legs and let the world know that they have surpassed great challenges. Prosthetic limbs are not seen as a source of shame but of pride.  

Cindy Charlton, a triple amputee, said it best in an article she wrote for Amputee Coalition:

“I want people to know that I wear prostheses. And, as much as I hate to admit it, it comes from a sense of pride, almost like being proud of some sort of accomplishment. As any lower-extremity amputee knows, there is a great deal of accomplishment and pride when you learn how to walk with a prosthetic leg. But even more than that, I want people to know that I have survived, and I want them to think, ‘Wow! If she can survive and accomplish that, then maybe I can survive and overcome the obstacles in my life.’ I want people to know that the human spirit is formidable, that any adversity and challenge is not too great to conquer.”

Because of this perspective shift, numerous amputees have graced news headlines. We have Brenna Huckaby, the first amputee to pose on the cover of Sports Illustrated; Shaholly Ayers, the first amputee model to walk the runway in New York Fashion Week; and Sen. Tammy Duckworth who made history as the first double amputee senator to cast a vote on the Senate floor with her newborn baby. 

Along with this perspective shift comes the various leg designs that express the personality of the wearer, from full carbon graphite look to 3D printed covers. 

Endless options

Back in the 90s, prosthetic-wearers only had more or less two options for a prosthetic cover: they can choose either a foam cover with cosmetic hosiery or a “life-like” silicone skin. Today, the possibilities are endless with fashion-forward 3D-printed covers from Alleles or Unyq, both of which take cosmesis—the art of making artificial limbs look lifelike—to a whole new level. 

3D-printed covers in various designs and color choices are available through your prosthetist. You can also get your prosthetic socket airbrushed by Prosthetic Ink. Dan Horkey, the founder of Prosthetic Ink, does fantastic work. 

The question of whether to cover or not to cover boils down to individual preference. But when it comes to getting the best of both worlds—in the sense of providing cover and style that reflects your uniqueness—3D-printed covers are your best bet. So, go forth and celebrate your unique style without sacrificing comfort. 

We’d love to know what your preference is. Share it with us in the comments section below. 

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  • I like the cover. It helps to protect things from strikes by my prosthesis (like my other leg). It doesn’t get hung up on the side of my motorcycle when I use my prosthetic foot to operate the brake pedal. It helps protect my clothing from rips and tears caused by contact with hard metal or plastic parts. Pride, what’s that got to do with it? I need stuff that works, you know?

    Matthew Alderson on

  • I wear shorts in the Montana winter so I can show mine off. BK with Agilix foot. I think it’s cool. You gotta embrace it.

    Dave Pleasant on

  • I grew up in the 1950s & 60s. Before my leg was amputated at the age of 12, I had a brace & 7-inch platform shoe which stuck out like a sore thumb. Kids will pick on anything out of the ordinary, so I was teased a lot. All I ever wanted to do was look like everyone else. I’m too self-conscious to go out in public without a “natural” cover. I’ve had too many negative reactions over the years; I just don’t want to deal with it anymore.

    Carol Southern on

  • above knee amputee in Dec. 2018 I think the covers are fun way to be different but you should not care about what others think just be glad to be on this side of the dirt and show of that you are different than everyone else

    Andrew C Summerlin on

  • It really depends on my mood. Initially, I told my that I had no desire to try to make my prosthetic look like a real leg. Why pretend?

    Then, I found that table legs at restaurants left scuffs on my expensive equipment, and agreed to options from Alleles. I have one which is very open, which I put LED lights into for the holidays, and one that is silver. If I wear dress pants, I cover, so my cuffs freak at the right point. But, since I wear shorts 80% of the time, I usually go with a socket onto which I’ve laminated a custom fabric image using a piece from AmpuTshirts on Etsy.

    Rex Burruss on

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