COCHRANE, Alta — A Cochrane man recently teamed up with Red Deer Polytechnic (RDP) to design a product that’s helped him get back to one of the activities he loves most.
Georges-Andre Tambay required surgery after he tore his ACL in both knees playing soccer over 10 years ago.
The surgeries alone would not allow him to fully return to some of the sports he loved before, however.
“I love hiking, but when you’re descending, that’s when the most strain is on your knees, because your foot is at an angle,” said Tambay. “You’re constantly braking on the way down.”
Unable to explore the mountains in his usual form, the man found himself searching for anything that might help remove some of the strain from his joints.
It’s taken Tambay 10 years of tinkering and poking around to find a working solution that allows him to get back on the slopes. His first attempt was modifying a pair of crutches he bought from Value Village.
It didn’t work the way he’d hoped, he said, and painkillers also weren’t enough to help him get down a mountain.
What does work though, is an accessory that elevates the front part of both his feet, is easily slipped on to his hiking boots, and has fasteners like a ski boot.
This is the Trekstepper design that Tambay came up with, alongside some help from RDP.
“It takes the strain off your knee by lifting the front of your foot,” he explained. “You’re coming downstairs instead of fighting the slope the whole time.”
The product is designed to be small and simple enough that each one can be easily slipped on before going downhill, and then just as quickly taken off when no longer needed.
Treksteppers are made in pairs – one for each foot – and are designed for anyone with aching or aging joints who wants to be able to hike without any extra strain.
To Tambay, it’s important to be able to try to continue doing the things you love as you get older, even when physical challenges arise.
The product is patented in Canada and the U.S., according to Tambay, but he has not yet found an investor to help with production.
Currently, he has only a few pairs of Treksteppers, which cost him over $100 to manufacture. They come in three different sizes based on the height of the user and Tambay has been lending them out here and there to collect as much feedback as possible.
Once he gets the product off the ground, he hopes to be able to relieve others’ pain so they, too, can get back to enjoying the outdoors, or discover a new hobby they didn’t think possible for themselves.