I spent 3 months on crutches in the spring of 2013 following an ankle injury. I purchased a set of Mobilegs crutches, an ergonomically improved axillary (or “armpit style”) crutch with ergonomic hand grips and rounded feet that made getting around easier and more comfortable. As I progressed in my recovery and I was allowed to bear some weight on my injured leg, I found that even these improved crutches were lacking. Instead of purchasing another set of crutches, I modified the Mobilegs crutches to keep up with my increased abilities. These prototypes of swappable supports are an example of modular and flexible design that allow a product to adapt as the user’s abilities change.

Axillary (“armpit style”) crutches are common in the United States and provide strong support, but don’t allow you to take advantage of arm strength or elbow dexterity when moving around. Ascending and descending stairs requires a slow one step at a time technique ¬†where all the lifting is done with the one “good” leg. Trying to go up or down stairs by skipping a step (pictured in the slideshow) is unstable and uncomfortable.

Forearm crutches, common in Europe, allow for greater dexterity if the user has the strength for it. Gaining use of the elbow helps compensate for uneven ground and curbs and facilitates easier directional changes. Walking gait is more natural, which allows a user to alternate feet when walking on stairs and rebuild the muscles of the recovering leg.