Our “Amputee Running Series” aims to provide you with a practical guide to help you begin running with your prosthesis. This third installment will provide an overview of the different types of prosthetic running knees available in the market today. If you are interested in finding out about how to prepare your body and prosthesis for running, check out Part 1. If you’re looking for more information on the best running feet, head to Part 2.
Choosing the right prosthetic knee
Each component of a prosthetic running leg contributes to your overall performance as an amputee runner. A prosthetic running knee offers strong rotation hydraulics allowing it to maintain the same high stride rates as your sound side. The faster you run, the higher your stride rate, and the more your prosthetic running knee has to work to keep up.
In this article, we are going to explore two options: the straight pylon system (also called ‘straight knee’) and the fitness-specific running knee.
Straight pylon system
Not too long ago, the straight pylon system was the prosthesis of choice of many prosthetic runners. A few runners may still prefer to use this system for personal reasons. However, running with a straight pylon is like running with locked knees. It forces the body to compensate by circumducting the prosthetic leg (swinging the prosthesis to the side) to clear the prosthetic toe. Running like this for an extended period will eventually injure the hip and back areas.
Prosthetic running knee
In contrast to the straight pylon, running with a prosthetic running knee allows for a more natural swing phase of gait and creates a more symmetrical form when running. The critical aspect of a running knee is its low level of resistance or friction, which will allow the user to quickly swing the leg through to maintain fast running speeds.
Types of prosthetic running knees
One fitness-specific knee on the market is the Ottobock 3S80 Sport Knee Joint. The Sport 3S80 features powerful rotation hydraulics, optimized for running sports. It additionally offers dampening characteristics in the swing phase, which allows the prosthetic leg to master high stride rates for faster running. The knee is also equipped with a manual lock—an essential feature to ensure the prosthetic user’s safety when standing and during warm-ups and stretching.
Össur offers a few more prosthetic knee options—all of which can be adapted to running—to support prosthetic users in varying points of their rehabilitation journey. The Cheetah Knee can be used for jogging, long-distance running and sprinting. The Total Knee 2000 is the go-to knee for superior shock absorption, increased comfort, and a more natural gait.
The OH7 Knee boasts of a robust construction that allows it to support prosthetic users up to 136 kg or 300 lb. The Paso Knee is designed with an intelligent swing phase control which adapts automatically to your running speed. Meanwhile, the Rheo Knee XC is designed to support amputees from early rehabilitation to full recovery. This prosthetic knee can be used for cycling, walk-to-run, and stair ascent.
Consult your prosthetist
If this is your first time choosing a prosthetic running knee, we recommend consulting your prosthetist so he or she can help you select the best option based on your history and unique needs.Do you prefer to use a straight pylon or a running knee? Also, if you use a running knee, which brand and model are you using? Please share your experiences with us.