The mechanics of foot travel

Sep 15, 2005

With so many silly gaits to choose from, why have we adopted so few?
Despite having the bones and muscles to perform a variety of gaits, human beings have developed an overwhelming preference for just two: walking and running. Now, computer analysis that allows simulation of infinite two-legged locomotions has shown our favored modes of bi-pedal travel use the least amount of energy.

Indeed, in an article published in the current online edition of the British journal Nature, Cornell engineers Andy Ruina and Manoj Srinivasan compare the mechanics of walking and running with "many other strange and unpractised gaits." They used a set of computer models that simulated physical measurements such as leg length, force, body velocity and trajectory, forward speed and work.

"We wish to find how a person can get from one place to another with the least muscle work," they report. "Why do people not walk or even run with a smooth level gait, like a waiter holding two cups brim-full of boiling coffee?"

The engineers' computer simulations conclude that walking is simply most energy efficient for travel at low speeds, and running is best at higher speeds. And, they report, a third walk-run gait is optimal for intermediate speeds, even though humans do not appear to take advantage of it.

The findings help to explain why the possible--but preposterous--gaits in the Monty Python sketch, "Ministry of the Silly Walks," have never caught on in human locomotion. The researchers add that extensions of this work might improve the design of prosthetic devices and energy-efficient bipedal robots.

Source: NSF

Explore further: Changing dinosaur tracks spurs novel approach

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Tribo-electric,' the buzzword of the future?

Mar 04, 2014

Out at sea, gentle waves provide power for thousands of homes. In cities, dancefloor moves generate electricity for nightclubs. In the countryside, hikers use leg power to recharge their phones.

Recommended for you

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

18 hours ago

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

21 hours ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

21 hours ago

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

22 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

White House updating online privacy policy

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...