Injection Molded Foot Wins Medical Design Award

The Niagara Foot, a dynamic, injection-molded prosthetic foot, recently
received a Medical Design Excellence Award in the rehabilitation and
assistive-technology products category for its innovative and cost effective

The foot was designed by Robert Gabourie, CP, of Niagara
Prosthetics and Orthotics International Ltd. in Ontario, Canada. Now in its
second iteration and known as the Rhythm Foot, it is a single-piece,
energy-storing foot that can be adjusted in the field based on the
patient’s size and activity level and manufactured at an affordable price.

Gabourie developed the Rhythm Foot in collaboration with DuPont, which
provided its Hytrel injection-molded polymer. Hytrel is flexible and durable,
providing energy return without compromising the strength or stability of the

“Developing this was a collaborative effort, and DuPont’s
technical support was second to none,” Gabourie told O&P Business
. “Molding something with this type of cross-section was way more
difficult than I initially thought it was going to be, and they were incredible
with finding the proper materials that we needed to use.”

Gabourie also worked with researchers at the Human Mobility Research
Centre at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, to conduct clinical trials
and complete design modifications.

The Rhythm Foot can be adjusted to accommodate a patient’s height and weight.

Image: Robert Gabourie


“The Rhythm Foot shows that high-performance and life-enhancing
benefits can be delivered through materials science,” Diane H.
president of DuPont Performance Polymers, stated in a company press
release. “It also demonstrates how people with different expertise can
achieve far more through collaboration.”

Although the Niagara Foot has been in production for several years, the
Rhythm Foot was has only been available for purchase for a few months.

“Model one, the original version of this one, has been around for a
long time, but it had some pretty valid cosmetic complaints,” Gabourie
said. “So we addressed those and initially launched the Rhythm Foot as a
beta test to a few people. Now it has been on sale for a few months and is just
being made available in North America.”

The Rhythm Foot comprises five main sections: the platform, dynamic C
coil, horns, heel lever and forefoot lever. During heel strike, the platform
opens and flexes upwards, opening the gap between the platform and horns and
placing pressure on the C coil. As the foot moves into mid-stance and the
platform closes, energy is transferred from the C coil to the forefoot lever
and the person is propelled forward.

The foot can be adjusted to accommodate height and weight, and the toe
and heel levers can be softened based on the patient’s activity level.

According to Gabourie, fitting a patient could take as little as 20
minutes, depending on the prosthetist’s familiarity with the device.

“The idea is that this foot can accommodate various sizes and
weights,” Gabourie said. “Since it’s tunable, there is some
involvement from the prosthetist required. It takes some fiddling to get the
foot to work right.”

The Rhythm Foot is intended for both permanent and interim use, such as
while swimming or showering, and it can be worn independently or with a foot
shell for cosmetic enhancement. Including a cosmetic cover and titanium
adapter, the Rhythm Foot can be manufactured for approximately $320, making it
a viable solution for amputees in developing countries.

“There are a few in use in Canada and Germany as both interim and
permanent feet,” Gabourie said. “But at this stage, the majority out
there are being used as permanent feet in developing countries.”

Gabourie is planning to expand distribution of the Rhythm Foot more
widely in North America in the near future. — by Megan Gilbride

Disclosure: Gabourie is the owner of Niagara Prosthetics and Orthotics
International Ltd., Ontario, Canada.

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