The Pegleg of the Future
In the days that followed my tragic foot fracture—don’t text and walk down stairs, folks!—I learned to loathe crutches. They were incredibly awkward to manipulate. Getting around was slow and tiring. They hurt my rib cage, rubbing the skin raw under my arms on long trips. I couldn’t carry anything. Stairs were a nightmare. And they were just plain in the way, no matter what I tried to do.
Wasn’t there a modern option to help me get around, hands free, while keeping the weight off my broken foot? Yes, there was. It is the iWALK2.0, sold by SH Medical in Germany. The single "leg crutch" straps to your leg and provides a built-in shelf upon which you rest your injured foot. It promised a way to walk around normally, arms completely unencumbered. Basically, a high-tech pegleg.
On the company's website (www.iwalkfree.de), there were photos and videos of people on the iWalk lifting weights at the gym, playing soccer, walking the dog, even getting a beer from the fridge! None of that was possible on crutches. This, I realized, was the mobility I deserved. I placed my order and spent two full weeks seeing just how much I could do on the iWalk2.0.
The Pegleg of the Future
If you’re patient and observant, the tool-free assembly can be completed in about 40 minutes. Before putting mine together, I watched the company's videos on YouTube demonstrating assembly and showing users hobbling around on their iWalks. These instructions proved useful in addition to reading the manual, since it's important to set the device to the proper length and ensure the three straps have a very snug fit. I fiddled with those straps for days to find the perfect fit, but I finally got to a point of synchronicity where I could get in and out of the iWalk in 15 seconds. The fastest users, according to iWalk, can get in and out in close to 10.
But the point of iWalk isn’t merely taking it on and off. It’s about actually getting around, and in that respect, the iWalk did not disappoint. By day two I was able to stroll through Whole Foods, visit the salad bar, and carry my bowl through checkout with ease. On day four I went on a full Costco trip, pushing a cart around like a regular biped. On day five I was confident enough to work out at the gym. The treadmill was a no-go, obviously, but I was able to get around the weight room well enough, provided I didn’t try to use a machine with ankle bracing. The looks I got from people almost made it worth breaking a bone.
In time the iWalk would accompany me through airport security, to my car in a torrential rainstorm, and even on a full-day tour of wine country. On busy days I logged 4,000 to 5,000 steps, per my fitness tracker—less than when I was fully mobile but thousands more than I could manage on old-fashioned crutches. The only side effects: some soreness in my good knee and my back. It’s not effortless, but the work you put into it has real benefits. You’re getting exercise, you’re improving blood flow to your broken limb, and you’re getting stuff done. It sure as hell beats laying on the couch.
In the end, stairs remained the biggest challenge. They were slow going either way, but using my good leg to pull my body up each step, one by one, really took its toll on that knee, and carrying anything of substance up the stairs proved impossible. When I could, I opted for the elevator.
After two weeks puttering around on the iWalk, my podiatrist gave me the clear to start putting weight on my bum foot again. He said I was his first patient ever to use an iWalk, and noted that I "looked cool" on it. Unfortunately, he said, most of his patients were much too "unstable" to use one, since the iWalk requires some physical exertion to get around and the typical podiatry patient is well into their golden years.
Ultimately, I relied on the iWALK to get me around during my injury to get around. Looking back, I’ve never loved a product so much while wanting nothing more than to never have to use it again.