A Step in Simon's shoes
Limericks’s Simon Baker was 36 when he fell from a height and learned he would lose his right leg below the knee. Not a lover of sport before the accident, Simon looked to physical activity to turn his life around after the accident. From 240km cross-country walks and marathons, to national and international amputee football, Simon focused on sport to come through his recovery and embrace life fully again. Flexyfoot has been a lifeline for Simon in enabling him to enjoy sport more safely and in comfort. We talk to him here:
FF. How did you hear about Flexyfoot?
SB. I took part in Dublin Marathon in 2008, taking the title of Fastest Marathon Runner on Crutches. The trouble was, I’d used standard ferrules that needed changing every 4-6 miles so it really slowed me down. Worse than that, come the end of it, my hands were ruined. After the marathon, I’d signed up to do a 240km walk from Dublin to Limerick. I knew there had to be something out there that was better suited to the job than my standard ferrules and I began trawling the internet trying to find it. That’s when I stumbled across Flexyfoot. I spoke to David who designed the Flexyfoot ferrule about the intricacies of the design and he was adamant they’d better support me than a standard ferrule throughout my walk. So I took to the pavements to road-test the Flexyfoot ferrules to within an inch of their lives.
FF. How did the walk from Dublin to Limerick go?
SB. I took a handful of spares on this 240km trip but needn’t have bothered; covering 35-40km per day on tar and chip surfaces, the Flexyfoot ferrules were rigorously put through their paces. During the whole five day walk, I only needed to change the ferrules once and even then, the second set lasted me days after the walk too. One and a half pairs for the entire trip - I was pretty amazed. The terrain on the walk was really uneven, with adverse cambers and gravelly surfaces, but Flexyfoot enabled maximum grip at all times. What’s more, the shock absorber contained within the ferrule was an added bonus. For me, the vibrations through the wrist are unbelievable with standard ferrules and after the marathon I was suffering with sharp pains through my arms for up to a week afterwards. Essentially it’s the equivalent of shin splints in the wrists so it’s really not comfortable, but after the walk, nothing. The vibrations are taken clean out by the shock absorber making the whole experience something else.
FF. It sounds like you were quite impressed. Have you been using Flexyfoot since?
SB. Yes, the walk was back in 2011 and I’ve used Flexyfoot since. I’ve probably done over 1,000 endurance miles using Flexyfoot now. I normally wear a prosthesis but I started up an amputee football team and the rules are that you must have at least one lower limb missing or if you’re in goal, one arm missing and so playing wearing a prosthesis isn’t allowed. We use crutches; either one or two depending on the player. After the walk, I introduced the team to Flexyfoot and they were blown away by it. It really allows us to push ourselves as athletes. We do running training using them daily; as a team, we even entered a marathon relay and completed all the training using Flexyfoot. There was no real strain on the wrists, no injuries that affected our ability to pay football. We now have 100% contact with the floor at all times which helped no end with confidence issues and has enabled us to become stronger athletes and a better team.
FF. How about the design, what do you think there?
SB. It’s fantastic, particularly for running and what it allows us to do in comfort and with confidence. It would be fantastic to have a sports version of the ferrule specifically for athletes that’s tailored to how we use it. Flexyfoot is designed for everyday use, for those with and without lower limbs, walkers, older people, the less mobile; I guess as athletes, we give it a lot more welly than most. Whenever we play away, I always try to make a point of showing Flexyfoot to the opposing team as I really do think it is an incredible invention that could really help make life easy for a lot of amputee athletes. I can also really see how useful it would be for athletes, sportsmen and women who get injured and need crutches as part of their recovery. We’re off to the Amputee Football World Cup in Mexico later in the year and our Flexyfoot ferrules will definitely be in tow.
FF. Would you say that Flexyfoot has helped your confidence with sport?
SB. Running for me was a way of getting back into life. To start with it’s embarrassing but after a while, as your confidence grows, you become more comfortable with it. It’s also becoming more and more commonplace to see runners on crutches and people are much more accepting of that now than they ever have been. I guess the profile of the Paralympics has gone someway to helping that. Before I got the Flexyfoot ferrules, if it was raining, I couldn’t go out and train because it wouldn’t be safe; I’d slip and it’d drastically impact on my confidence too but I know with Flexyfoot I do have that security and it's not an issue anymore. In fact I don’t even think about it now.
FF. So what’s next for Simon Baker then?
SB. Obviously we have the World Cup upcoming but after that, I’d love to go back to do a marathon with the Flexyfoot ferrules and I am 100% sure that I’d be able to the cut my time dramatically. Watch this space.