Nike reaches amputee athletes with commercial soles for prosthetic limbs

Nike Sole

Nike Innovation has developed a new prosthetic sole, designed to help amputee athletes truly hit the ground running. The project, known as the Nike Sole, is a partnership between Össur, an advanced orthopedics design company, and amputee triathlete Sarah Reinertsen. The product is a running sole that interlocks and accommodates the unique Össur blade, allowing runners to experience a true running foot without the hassle of cutting their own soles.

The Nike Sole has all the elements of a normal running shoe, stripped down to the key component amputees need most. Utilizing recycled materials, carbon fiber and a “flex-run” blade, the lightweight sole features a three-part layered system that includes an outsole, midsole and a thermal plastic urethane called Aeroply. These layers provide traction, comfort and support, adding the feeling of a real shoe onto the prosthetic leg to improve track performances. The sole attachment also contains nine nylon tabs and a rubber leash that hooks and grips on to the running blade, giving users the ability to run firmly on the ground but also easily slide the sole on and off their blades. Reinertsen has tested its first prototype made from a Nike Free 5.0 Trail outsole, and more advanced models are expected to come out based on her professional feedback.

Nike Sole side view

This minimalistic design aims to be both stylish and more functional for amputee athletes. Previously, runners resorted to buying a regular pair of sneakers and mangled them entirely by slicing the bottom soles off then manually attaching it to the blade with glue, velcro or duct tape. Nike hopes that by focusing on the user than the product, the design will serve the small but new market whose needs were never addressed to date.

“The Sarah Sole project is a special one for Nike,” said Tobie Hatfield, Nike Innovation Director. “The Nike Sole is a shining example of our passion and commitment to serve athletes and provide them the solutions they need to achieve their goals – we’re always listening to the voice of every athlete.”

Reinertsen, who has worked with Nike and Össur on the project since 2006, was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency, battling a bone-growth disorder which resulted in her becoming an above-the-knee amputee by the age of seven. Since the amputation, Reinertsen has set world records in her division, ran multiple marathons and was the youngest member of the 1992 U.S. Paralympic Team to compete in Barcelona.

The Nike Sole is currently available through prosthetists’ offices globally, presumably at those where the Össur prosthetic blades are also offered.

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