MN Made: Lite Run Inc.

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Minnesota is known for many things – our “You betcha’s” and cold winters get talked about often, but some of MN’s more important claims to fame is our Medical Alley and reputation for being one of the healthiest places to live in the United States. And, at that intersection is the story of Lite Run.

Minnesota is home to some of the best and most beautiful running trails, really wherever you are in the state. From views of the cityscape, to expansive farmland, running trails and paths weave around lakes, through cities, and over Minnesota’s varied terrain. And, it was in the midst of a love for recreational running – and a daughter’s swim meet – that the idea for Lite Run was born. Though it didn’t take long for it to grow much bigger than a solution for knee pain.

In the Very Beginning

As many runners do, John Hauck struggled with knee pain. For some runners, it is an annoyance they try to ‘run-through’ and for others it can be debilitating, forcing them to give up an exercise they enjoy. John wasn’t satisfied with these options; he decided there should be a better solution.

He began collaborating with Doug Johnson, a fellow runner and inventor, ideating a system that could solve this problem. While at their daughters’ swim meet, the idea of buoyancy surfaced, and together they created a special pair of pants designed to use air pressure to lighten the body weight load. Mark Johnson, machine designer, joined their collaboration at this point, and they built a system with mechanical and pneumatic controls to run in the pants on a treadmill.

“I was delighted when I found I could run for an hour at only half of my body weight!” John recalls.

Original mission, accomplished! But it quickly became clear that this system could serve an incredible purpose in physical therapy and rehabilitation programs.

A Bigger Mission

With this new use-case, this trio engaged two Minnesota-based organizations, Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute and North Memorial Hospital, to help test a prototype that supported gait therapy. This proved so successful they launched into full product development mode. They brought in Bruce Wigness, a medical device quality system expert, and Pete Bobgan, a mechanical engineer, to help develop the Lite Run Gait Trainer.

Lite Run, a patented suit and walker system, works to reduce body weight to help patients restore mobility and wellbeing. Here’s how:

  • Air pressure inside the Lite Run suit lifts the patient off the ground, which
  • Effectively reduces body weight by up to 50% (treating patients up to 350 lbs). This significantly
  • Lessens the weight the patient needs to support, while
  • Retaining the patient’s natural gait during training/therapy.

From its humble beginnings of solving knee pain for runners, the Lite Run system works effectively to support:

  1. Patients recovering from stroke or injury
  2. Therapists treating patients, by reducing the need to lift and transfer

Improving Mobility Improves Life

By reducing pain, boosting confidence, increasing heart rates, building strength, and much more, Lite Run improves lives through enhanced mobility. While the physical benefit may be most obvious, there is an important mental wellbeing that comes along with mobility and increased independence.

Veteran at Mpls VA Hospital uses Lite Run to walk for the first time in 7 years

Secondarily, but equally important, this system has a significant impact on the therapist. Easing the physical burden often required in gait therapy, Lite Run makes it quick and safe for the therapist to get the patient set up and into his/her training. In the first clinical feasibility study in 2016, directed by North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale, it generally took less than 5 minutes to get the pants on, and the therapists rated the system very easy to use. By shortening the time and reducing effort needed to get into therapy, more of the time can be spent healing, strengthening, and (simply) moving.

“As a PT, my goal is to do whatever I can to get my patients up and moving to return to walking. Lite Run has allowed me to do that. This should be at every rehabilitation facility.” Physical Therapist at Minneapolis VA Healthcare

Minnesota Made

Positioned in Minnesota’s Medical Alley, and as a long-time leader in the local medical industry, John Hauck and his team have built a patented system that restores mobility and wellbeing – quickly, safely, and cost-effectively.

100% of the Lite Run manufacturing currently happens in Minnesota; the suits are manufactured at the Clothier Design Source and machine manufacturing is done at the University Enterprise Laboratories (UEL). The UEL, where Lite Run headquarters are also located, is a superb Minnesota incubator ecosystem for startups, providing shared services, onsite experts, and 45 fellow startup companies.

Lite Run Manufacturing in Minnesota

The proximity, availability, and aptitude of Minnesota resources make it a great place to build a product, service, and company. Lite Run is working to bring this Minnesota made technology to physical therapy labs across the country, building on their successful system implementations at Hennepin Health (HCMC), Minneapolis VA Healthcare, and North Memorial Healthcare.

Mission Accomplished, and then Some

What started as a personal need evolved into a life-changing product. And it all happened right here in Minnesota. Uff da!

Lite Run is an advantageous culmination of many things Minnesotan - running, healthcare resources, manufacturing capabilities, and brilliant talent, to name a few. And, their story is an inspirational tale of innovation, partnership, and the potential of an original idea.

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