SCOTTS VALLEY—The same FOX shock technology that smooths the crash landing of a mountain bike is sharing top honors for its use in a prosthetic foot worn by extreme competitive racers.
The Versa Foot, a prosthetic designed by competitive racer Mike Shultz was named this week as one of the top inventions of the year by Popular Science. The judges of the 26th annual “Best of What’s New” issue sifted through thousands of products to create the list of “the 100 innovations that are reshaping the future right before our eyes.” It includes a $30 cardboard bike made of recyclables, a compact digital guitar, a space suit for tourists and a programmable animatronic robot kit. The issue was on newsstands Tuesday.
“To have my product in the magazine as one of the top designs of the year is pretty jaw-dropping,” said Schultz, 32, who is head of Biodapt, his own small prosthetics company in Minnesota. “It’s pretty neat.”
The Versa Foot shares top billing in the “Health” category with nine other new products, including foldable wheelchair wheels, a bionic eye, a headache eraser and a cancer detector. Earlier this year, the Versa Foot, which provides a wider range of motion and more ability to spring and withstand sudden impact, was listed as the top new Medical Device of the year. It sells for $2,245.
“It really shows the versatility and utilization of our technologies across things that they weren’t initially intended for,” said Dan Robbins, marketing manager at FOX in Scotts Valley.
FOX, which began as a motocross shock company in 1975, focuses its business on high performance shocks for mountain bikes and powered vehicles but the technology has also found its way into sit-skis for Paralympic contenders, wheelchairs and snowmobile drivers. Back in the ’90s, a dog named “Cooter” had a prosthetic limb with a FOX shock, Robbins said. Of course that one didn’t have the same technology as the Versa Foot.
Schultz’s success is a personal victory. He was a professional racer when he lost his leg in a snowmobile racing accident almost five years ago. Schultz, who has no formal engineering training, decided to design a prosthetic that could withstand the impact of extreme jumps and provide the agility that wasn’t available in everyday prosthetics.
In 2009, he first created a prosthetic knee, the Moto Knee, using an aluminum FOX float shock typically used in a high performance mountain bike. Schultz took the silver medal in the Adaptive Motocross race at the 2009 Summer X Games and started Biodapt the next year. He won the gold medal in the X Games Adaptive SnoCross race in 2010 and 2011. When that competition was eliminated, he learned how to snowboard in 17 days to compete in the 2012 X Games. He now has five ESPN X-Games Gold Medals.
Currently the Versa Foot is worn by about 75 amputees and the Moto Knee is worn by about 90 people, said Schultz who is sponsored by FOX. Some of his competitors are wearing his device, including Wazny, the stranger who had encouraged him to get back into racing after his accident. Numerous wounded veterans are also wearing the prosthetics.
“We’re so proud of all that Mike as accomplished—from his numerous wins on the race track to the awards and honors he’s received for his inventions to Biodapt, his thriving prosthetics business—and we are proud that FOX and our suspension solutions have been able to play a part in his success,” Robbins said.
To see Mike Schultz talk about the creation of his company, visit http://www.monstermikeschultz.com.