Living With Your Boots On

Courtesy Foot Defender

Despite having a national reputation for excellence in podiatry, Jason Hanft was frustrated that so many of his patients limped along with foot ulcers until amputation surgery became unavoidable. He knew many limbs could be saved if more patients wore the medical boots he prescribed. Why weren’t they using them?

Hanft polled thousands of patients and got a simple answer: Standard diabetic boots were difficult to put on and take off, and they were so ugly that people didn’t want to wear them in public. “We need[ed] to create a device that’s easy to use and patients want to use in their daily activities of living,” he told Fast Company. 

So Hanft teamed up with Michael DiTullo, an industrial designer whose clients have included Nike and Converse, to create Foot Defender. By combining the medical benefits of a conventional boot with the comfort and aesthetic appeal of an athletic shoe, Foot Defender offers a liberating vibe rather than something that feels like a prison for an already-beleaguered limb. 

Hanft and DiTullo tested dozens of prototypes to optimize the clinical benefits. According to their beta testing data, about 80 percent of foot wounds healed in six weeks among patients wearing the Foot Defender. That’s more than four times better than the average performance of standard diabetic boots.

The product won raves at this spring’s Symposium on Advanced Wound Care in Phoenix. “Patients pretty much hate the other boots that we have available,” says Adam Landsman, a professor of podiatric medicine at Harvard Medical School. He refers to Foot Defender as “a major breakthrough” that’s “dramatically different from other boots on the market.” 

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