Explore a current and future scenario around artificial body parts in sport

Richard Whitehead

Richard Whitehead.

Now: Richard Whitehead

Born without legs below the knee due to a congenital condition, Richard Whitehead has achieved world records in both the half and full marathons. In 2013 he completed 40 marathons in 40 days, running the length of Britain. He runs using carbon composite ‘blades’, which are specially designed prosthetic legs leading down to specially designed shoes.

Richard runs in the T42 category for disability sport as he is an ‘over-the-knee amputee’, which means that he has no flexion in his legs. Despite his condition, there are ongoing discussions as to whether Richard and other athletes like him gain an advantage from their prosthetics when competing against ‘able-bodied’ athletes. 

To watch Richard’s uniquely upright style of running, follow this link to a YouTube clip of him winning gold at the London Paralympics in 2012.

Future: Hand-built shoes

Elite athletes commonly wear hand-built shoes. In 2008, rapid manufacturing technologies started to make it possible to make shoes optimised for an individual’s physique and running style through precision measurement and engineering. Follow this link to watch the video.

Adidas has also been working on undergarments containing plastic strips that act like springs, which help wearers jump further and run faster.


About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Exercise, Energy and Movement’ in January 2012 and reviewed and updated in August 2016.

Physiology, Careers, Biotechnology and engineering
Exercise, Energy and Movement
Education levels:
14–16, 16–19, Continuing professional development