A framework for manipulating the sagittal and coronal plane stiffness of a commercially-available, low profile carbon fiber foot
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While amputee gait has been studied in great detail, the influence of prosthetic foot sagittal and coronal plane stiffness on amputee walking biomechanics is not well understood. In order to investigate the effects of sagittal and coronal plane foot stiffness on amputee walking, a framework for manipulating the stiffness of a prosthetic foot needs to be developed. The sagittal and coronal plane stiffness of a low profile carbon fiber prosthetic foot was manipulated through coupling with selective-laser-sintered prosthetic ankles. The carbon fiber foot provided an underlying non-linear stiffness profile while the ankle modified the overall stiffness of the ankle-foot combination. A design of experiments was performed to determine the effect of four prosthetic ankle dimensions (keel thickness, keel width, space between the ankle top and bottom faces, and the location of the pyramid connection) on ankle-foot sagittal and coronal plane stiffness. Ankles were manufactured using selective laser sintering and statically tested to determine stiffness. Two of the dimensions, space between the ankle top and bottom faces and the location of the pyramid connection, were found to have the largest influence on both sagittal and coronal plane stiffness. A third dimension, keel thickness, influenced only coronal plane stiffness. A number of prosthetic ankle-foot combinations were created that encompassed a range of sagittal and coronal plane stiffness levels that were lower than that of the low profile carbon fiber foot alone. To further test the effectiveness of the framework to manipulate sagittal and coronal plane stiffness, two ankle-foot combinations, one stiffer than the other in the sagittal and coronal planes, were used in a case study analyzing amputee walking biomechanics. Differences in stiffness were large enough to cause noticeable changes in amputee kinematics and kinetics during turning and straight-line walking. Future work will expand the range of ankle-foot stiffness levels that can be created using this framework. The framework will then be used to create ankle-foot combinations to investigate the effect of sagittal and coronal plane stiffness on gait mechanics in a large sample of unilateral transtibial amputees.