Thursday, August 9, 2012

How Did Oscar Pistorius Get Track Spikes For His Legs?

For those watching the Track and Field events at the London Olympics, you may have heard of Oscar Pistorius, the South African runner in the 400m event who has the distinction of being the first amputee to compete in the Olympics for Track. After protesting for years to be given the opportunity to compete for his country for years, he successfully got permission to do just that. More info after the jump.

Some critics have said that he would not be able to qualify and should compete in the Paralympics, but that was silenced quickly as he managed to qualify quite well. Oscar Pistorius has managed to perform so well that he made it to the semifinals of the 400m event of the London games and has made it to the finals of the relay event. What is amazing is that, if you look closely, you can see that Pistorius has spikes on the bottom of this prosthetics. How did he get those?

To put it simply, the track spikes were glued onto the bottom of the padding of the blades. A contact cement adheres the spikes to the "Spike Pad" and is removed using a blowdryer. Of course, the placement of the spikes is not the same as a normal runners, which created a challenge for Pistorius. Luckily for him, the designers at Nike, who is sponsoring Pistorius, has taken up that challenge.

Oscar traveled to Iceland along with Nike designer Tobie Hatfield to create a spike that was just right for his unique situation. Of course, Oscar can't feel his feet to talk about how something fits, so the process was unique. Tobie filmed Oscar sprinting on a pressure-sensitive treadmill at 500fps, to make sure he saw every movement and studied Oscar's form just right.

Hatfield explains the Spike Pad solution:

Hatfield wanted the most shock absorption possible, but didn't want Pistorius to lose launch power to a spongy pile of foam. So the resulting Spike Pad itself was fully realized then. It's formed of a midsole—two machine-molded pieces of foam with two different densities (softer is in the back where the Pistorius lands during his stride and harder density is in the front where Pistorius begins his stride)—along with a carbon fiber Spike Plate that attaches to the bottom.

Initially the spikes took two hours to attach. Thanks to Nike's help and solution, this process was reduced to 15 minutes.

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