Not Just for Snowboots, This Dial Also Adjusts Prosthetics

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

In the world of prosthetics, any little change in the design of a socket can make a huge difference when it comes to comfort. Much like athletic shoe design, when someone comes up with a new idea that works, it can change the game.

Three years ago, I told you about a new idea in prosthetic leg sockets that I was very excited about. A guy named Joe Mahon, who just happens to be the very first prosthetist I had after my surgery, had found a way to make a socket adjustable, using the same kind of dial you might find on a snowboard boot. In the amputee world, this means a huge reduction in the number of afternoons you sit in an office, waiting for adjustments by the professionals. It also means a lot more freedom when you’re far away from your prosthetist, say on a hiking trail or lounging on a long lost beach.

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

My adjustable Revolimb socket is still going strong. I’ve changed the strings on it once, using a very helpful tutorial online. I am now 100 percent sure I will never wear the old socket design again.

One huge component of the Revolimb is the BOA dial. Joe had many discussions with the folks at BOA, until he finally convinced them that their dials might be just as useful for prosthetic limbs as they were for snowboard boots and other athletic gear.

Photo: BOA Closures
Photo: BOA Closures

It’s the BOA dial that I turn for two or three clicks when I need a slight adjustment in my leg. It’s the BOA dial that I pop open for full release if I have a long drive or am stuffed in an airline seat. It gives me a lot of control over how loose or snug I choose to wear my leg.

Just a year after I got my Revolimb with the magic BOA dial, I was introduced to another great product that used the same idea. My right ankle tends to be weak, which is related to the condition that made me choose to amputate my left leg. For years, I’ve looked for an ankle brace that might keep me from damaging the only real ankle I have left. While hanging out at my prosthetist’s office one day, I found out that BOA had branched out. They now put their dials in body braces too.

Within a week, I was a fully BOA-powered chick. On my left side, I had a prosthetic leg that I could adjust myself, and on my right, I had an ankle brace that was just as adjustable. It was a nice find, since I tend to be hard on medical equipment, and this new ankle brace could always be dialed up if I felt like I was losing support.

I’ve been doubly BOA for over a year now. On most days, I wear their design on both limbs. The only time I choose to revert back to an older style ankle brace is when I need the streamlined option. The nature of the dial is such that it sticks out. This doesn’t fit well with my leather Converse high tops. When it’s all about the look, I don’t always choose BOA for my right side. But when it comes to the hard-core stuff that life can throw at me, it’s always my first choice.

Beyond just being interesting, this information might mean more to you than you think. BOA dials can now be found in braces of all types. Ace Bandages have them. Futuro brand has them. Knee braces and casts are being made with them. Just as they are changing the way prosthetic sockets are made, they are making the same waves in all kinds of casting and bracing options.

Photo: BOA Closures
Photo: BOA Closures

But hold on, there’s more.

For the past few days, I’ve had a very interesting link popping up in my Facebook feed. One really inspiring college kid named Matthew Walzer somehow convinced the designers at Nike shoes to make an athletic shoe he could wear. Matthew struggles to put shoes on his feet, because he lives with cerebral palsy, and dreamed of being able to “tie” his own shoes when he went away to college. He had a hunch that a company like Nike could make a shoe that was easier to deal with.

And they did. They came up with a great looking athletic shoe that has a wrap-around zipper system. They call it the LeBron Soldier 8 Flyease. It was about time for such an innovative idea.

Photo: BOA Closures
Photo: BOA Closures

As it turns out, the BOA Company was working on a similar product. They have designed another type of shoe that is easier for people with disabilities to navigate. They teamed up with Foot Care and have a whole line of really fun shoes for kids, which have a rear entry and a BOA dial for adjustment.

Fortunately for me, the queen of BOA it seems, there are shoes that benefit grown-ups too. Not only are they easy to get your feet into if you have any issues with foot or ankle stability, but their dial makes them evenly tight on your foot. This can be very important to folks who have lost some feeling in their lower extremities. It seems there might be a day in the near future where you’ll find me wearing three BOA products from my knees down.

Horse Shoe Photo: BOA Closures
Horse Shoe
Photo: BOA Closures

There are not only basic shoes with BOA dials, there are work boots (from major companies like Red Wing), hiking boots,  helmets, rollerblades, equestrian riding boots and horse shoes (I’m not kidding!), golf shoes, and many more types of footwear.

Most likely, you’re navigating your world on two feet made of flesh and bone, and a prosthetic leg made with a dial won’t be on your radar. But I’m pretty sure that some day in the future, you’ll have an injury that needs a cast or a body part that needs some temporary comfort. All of the sudden, those BOA dials that are such a huge part of my life will suddenly be very interesting to you. Trust me, you’ll appreciate the technology with every click.