Although Flexyfoot has just arrived in Australia, the story started a few years back in the UK. In additional to the brief history below, more information is available on www.flexyfoot.com
The Flexyfoot ferrule was invented by product designer David Goodwin. David’s design team has over 25 years experience in creating innovative, stylish and commercially successful products and have won numerous international awards for their design achievements. David’s sister, who has MS, complained to him about the difficulties and discomfort of using her walking stick. She found that rubber feet wore down too quickly and were very difficult to change. His mother of 95 refused to use any sort of walking aid, even after a fall, because she thought it made her look ‘old’!
Realizing there was a need for walking aids of all types to be sexy, sporty and smart, David developed a flexible, safe and comfortable alternative to the humble walking stick ferrule. And so Flexyfoot was born. Flexyfoot aims to transform the walking aid sector by offering real solutions to the real problems faced by those who need, or prefer, to have a little bit more stability. Flexyfoot assistive products not only look good and work well, but also have proven medical and therapeutic benefits, helping to challenge the stigma of walking aids and give safe, flexible support to those who need it. The Flexyfoot ferrule is the result of 3 years intensive research, design and development and has been created with the help of a leading orthopaedic surgeon and tested to the latest ISO standard for endurance and slip resistance.
Initial experiments proved that the flexibility and pressure retention properties of bellows could be used as the core for a new, intelligently designed walking aid ferrule. So, prototype bellows were assessed for endurance and the concept was presented to medical professionals who gave extremely positive feedback.
It was decided to create a range of bellow heights with different levels of absorbency (each one suitable for a different level of activity) and to make 4 different collar sizes to fit the most common walking aids.
When the first moulded samples were available, we approached ATcare to undertake independent user testing. ATcare is an independent body set up with a £2.75 Million budget from the London Development Agency with the aim to help develop and advise on assistive technology. In the first stage, focus group sessions were held to discuss users’ experience of walking aids and to gather opinions of the Flexyfoot ferrule. Once again, feedback was extremely positive and, following more mechanical testing, participants were provided with prototypes to use at home.
Throughout the development process, numerous small changes have been made to improve the Flexyfoot ferrule’s performance and ease-of-use. For example, slip testing was carried out by Satra. Delighted that the ISO requirement tests were 50% better than the standard ferrule, everyone was surprised that the wet test (which is not a requirement) was disappointing. We concluded that the tread pattern was acting like a water ski, so made a couple of minor modifications, then re-tested with a dramatic positive improvement.
During the process, we have been building a technical file to support CE marking. Flexyfoot is classified as a Class I device and so can be self certified, as long as due diligence is observed supporting materials can be supplied. To help in this endeavour, we asked medical device consultant Dr Jed Place of Medical Device Consultants to guide us through this highly technical and detailed process.