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: New 'Surveyman' software promises to revolutionize survey design and accuracy

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers study the biomechanics of locomotion

Oct 03, 2014

Rodger Kram, a faculty member in the integrative physiology department and an expert on human locomotion, has a fond place in his heart for kangaroos. A few decades ago he and colleagues measured the gait ...

Lunar explorers will walk at higher speeds than thought

Sep 17, 2014

Anyone who has seen the movies of Neil Armstrong's first bounding steps on the moon couldn't fail to be intrigued by his unusual walking style. But, contrary to popular belief, the astronaut's peculiar walk ...

Recommended for you

Remains of French ship being reassembled in Texas

5 hours ago

A frigate carrying French colonists to the New World that sank in a storm off the Texas coast more than 300 years ago is being reassembled into a display that archeologists hope will let people walk over ...

User comments : 0