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.
On day two I rented a knee walker, one of those little scooters that supports your bum leg and lets you get around a lot quicker. This was a massive improvement (and a delight to my children), but stairs at home meant it was relegated to a single floor of my house. The knee walker had its own drawbacks, too: Its cumbersome size made it difficult to maneuver, and it still required at least one hand to steer the handlebars. While I could at least cook dinner with the knee walker, I needed a diminutive sous chef to help out.
Fully hands-free mobility with a broken foot or ankle. Learning curve is manageable if you’re even slightly motivated. A conversation piece like nothing else.
Not functional in wet conditions (like the shower). Getting up from a low seat is tricky; stairs are worse. Constant fiddling and tiny adjustments can be time consuming.
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 was right there on Amazon, marked as a “Best Seller”: The iWalk2.0 Hands Free Crutch. 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, 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 shit 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.
Also, while I got pretty speedy at putting the iWalk on, I found that using the knee scooter was easier on the main floor of my house. If the doorbell rang, even 10 seconds seemed too long to keep the UPS guy from assuming I wasn’t home and leaving. The scooter helped me get there as fast as regular walking—and why go through the hassle of strapping up the iWalk for a 30-second trip?
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 all three types of assistance to get around: knee scooter for quick trips inside the house, crutches strictly for getting out of bed and into the shower, and iWalk for everything else. Looking back, I’ve never loved a product so much while wanting nothing more than to never have to use it again.
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