A Beginner’s Guide to Amputee Running: Above-Knee Suspension
Our “Amputee Running Series” aims to provide you with a practical guide to help you begin running with your prosthesis. This fourth installment will focus on suspension—particularly for above-knee (AK) amputee runners. To read our previous articles on amputee running, visit Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
Suspension: An essential running component
During a run, you want your complete focus on your performance, so you wouldn’t want anything to hinder you from giving it your all. Another essential component of your prosthetic running system is the suspension. And the only way to ensure optimal performance is to select a secure suspension system that fits you well.
Regardless of your preferred technique, the ideal AK prosthetic suspension system must be able to accommodate any changes in residual limb size. Meaning, if your suction suspension is becoming loose, you should have an auxiliary or secondary belt to maintain suspension. This is crucial, especially on hot days.
In addition, the perfect suspension system for AK amputee runners needs to be durable without inhibiting the hips from flexing and extending. And last, the ideal prosthetic suspension shouldn't add bulk and weight to your run.
Top 2 preferred AKA suspension methods for running
The top suspension system for AK amputee runners is a suction suspension with a one-way valve. To achieve the most intimate fit and purest form of suction, you need to have your prosthetist provide a socket with skin contact whereby you "pull-in" to achieve suction.
If you prefer a prosthetic liner and one-way valve to maintain suction suspension, we recommend using an Össur silicone liner because silicone will hold your residual limb more firmly.
Simplicity is essential, and many prefer a lanyard style vs. pin lock method of attaching the socket to the liner. A lanyard suspension is easy to use and simple in design compared to the pin-lock method of attaching the socket to the liner. It is also much easier to lock a lanyard system than a pin-lock as an AK amputee because it can be challenging to engage the pin with a lock that is located along the bottom of the socket.
An auxiliary or secondary suspension is usually necessary because as you run with your prosthesis, you will be generating a lot of heat, which equates to excessive sweating. When running, you should consider using an auxiliary suspension belt to ensure that you always have positive and reliable suspension.
Prosthetic auxiliary AK belts are available in low profile designs that prevent limiting hip motion. You might want to consider a few belts from Knit-Rite that features breathable material that can release heat and moisture.
Consult your prosthetist
If you have any questions about which suspension method to use for running, we highly suggest consulting your prosthetist. Don't hesitate to send us an email, and we will gladly help you find the information you need.
Lastly, always remember to double-check your suspension after you have finished your stretching and before you start your run. This is a great way to ensure your safety and focus on having fun on your run.
If you’re an AK prosthetic runner, which suspension method do you prefer and why? We’d love to know your thoughts.