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Prosthetic Feet 

A prosthetic foot is one of many components incorporated into a below or above knee prosthetic limb.  The first recorded instance of a person receiving a prosthetic foot was in 500 B.C., where a prisoner cut off his own foot during an escape and later received a wooden prosthesis.  It wasn’t until the 1950s that prosthetic designs began to become more intricate and today there are many manufacturers constantly updating materials and designs, based on amputee feedback.

       Like all components of a prosthesis, the type of prosthetic foot to incorporate into a prosthesis depends on multiple factors.  The amputee’s body-weight, amputation level, and activity level are crucial factors to consider when making this determination. 

Prosthetic feet are all designed for certain weight categories.  If an amputee is in a high overall body weight category, that amputee will require a heavy-duty foot that is designed to withstand that weight.  If the foot is not sturdy enough, the component could break under stress. 

Prosthetic feet are also designed for various amputee activity levels, or functional levels.  These are sometimes referred to as ‘K Levels’:             




  • K0 :  This functional level is only used when an amputee has no ability or potential to use a prosthesis to walk or transfer, with or without assistance.  In this case, a prosthesis would not enhance the person’s quality of life.
  • K1 :  In this case, the amputee must have the ability or the potential to use a prosthesis for walking or transferring with or without assistance.  This person mainly walks indoors for very short distances and requires a high level of security.  The amputee would have the ability or potential for walking only on level surfaces at a single cadence, or speed.
  • K2 :  Here, the amputee must have the ability or the potential to walk over low level barriers, such as curbs, stairs, or uneven surfaces.  This is typical of the limited outdoor walker.
  • K3 :  This functional level applies to an amputee who has the ability or the potential to walk at various speeds.  This person would be able to cross most environmental barriers and may have vocational, therapeutic, or exercise requirements that require a higher functioning prosthesis.  This person is able to walk actively outdoors, unrestricted.
  • K4 :  This functional level is typical of any athlete, child, or extremely active individual.  This type of amputee exceeds basic abilities, experiences high stress when walking, and requires high energy levels.   

Manufacturers define which foot is appropriate for which functional level and insurance companies are also provided with this information.

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