With the weather warming up, beach and swimming pool season is just around the corner and we’ve prepared some “amputee life hacks” for you to enjoy the season.
***Disclaimer: The tips below are for lower limb amputees whose prosthetic(s) has been identified to be waterproof. Always check with your prosthetist about the use of your prosthetics in water (salt, fresh or pool) and sand. Please be safe around water and slippery or wet areas.
Waterproof vs. Water Resistant
Just like watches, there is a definite difference between waterproof and water resistance in prosthetics especially in microprocessor knees.
Let’s start with water resistant. If your prosthetic device is labeled ‘water-resistant’ it means that it may have been built in such a way that it is more difficult for it to be affected by water, or possibly that it is coated with a very light substance that helps improve the device’s chances of surviving an encounter with water such as getting a splash of water or light rain shower. A quick look at your prosthetic with its carbon fibre foot and rubber parts like the foot shell, it is easy to assume that your prosthetic is water resistant. It may very well be, at a glance, but all the other parts of it may not. It is always best to check with your prosthetist and manufacturer.
Water proof, on the other hand uses a rating scale called the Ingress Protection Rating scale or IP Rating/Code. This code is crucial especially to microprocessor knee wearers. An IP rating refers to the degree of sealing of electrical enclosures from things like sand, dust, dirt and moisture. It consists of two digits that determines what type of activities you can do with your prosthesis. Check with your prosthetist and prosthetic manufacturer what the IP Rating is of your prosthetic before going in the water.
Depending on the prosthetic foot you have, you can have different options for water footwear. Probably the most non-slip and common water footwear to wear are good quality water shoes or water socks. They slip on nicely over the foot shell and a good pair should have non-slip treads.
Flip flops are also good for prosthetic feet that have a split toe. It will probably take some time to get used to waking on flip flops but worth the try. Talk to your prosthetist about the different options or ways in which to secure the flip flops on your split two prosthetics as each manufacturer makes them differently.
Crocs, slip ons and sandals will probably be the last on your list of footwear for the water. They can be cumbersome and could slip off if not secured properly.
Check with your prosthetist and try different footwear to see which one you are most comfortable with and you can be safe in.
Prosthetic feet for water or swimming
Your best bet to probably avoid having to choose footwear is to opt for a prosthetic foot meant for the beach, swimming or water. There are many different types including prosthetic feet that do not come with a foot shell, prosthetic feet meant for water use and swimming, or prosthetic sockets that have swim fins already attached to them. Speak to your prosthetist to select the best one for the activity you wish to do in the water.
On the beach
If you just want to enjoy the sand and be playful in the water, nylon stockings will be your friend. Believe it or not, nylon stockings has a lot more use for amputees. It can act as a sand trap so that sand and other debris does not get inside your foot shell.
- Put the nylon stockings over the foot shell to areas where you need to protect your prosthetic from sand.
- Use an elastic band to secure the nylon stocking in place.
- Cut the excess off so that it doesn’t tangle while you are walking or in the water.
- If you can, double up the nylon stockings for extra protection!
We hope that you get out and enjoy the warmer weather and let us know what you’ve tried. Have a safe and fun summer season!
Amputee Coalition of Toronto welcomes all amputees in Toronto and the surrounding GTA to join our support group for more information on monthly meetups, upcoming events, and a safe space to share your journey. We’re in this together!