The mechanics of foot travel

September 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: Using a machine learning technique to make a canine-like robot more agile and faster

Related Stories

First-in-human trial of senolytic drugs encouraging

January 7, 2019

UT Health San Antonio researchers, collaborating with the Mayo Clinic and the Wake Forest School of Medicine, are the first to publish results on the treatment of a deadly age-related disease in human patients with drugs ...

Geckos filmed to find out how they walk on water

December 7, 2018

Anyone who's seen a gecko will likely know they can climb walls. But these common lizards can also run across water nearly as fast as they can move on solid ground. Yet while we know how geckos scale smooth vertical surfaces ...

Recommended for you

Scientists discover new quantum spin liquid

January 22, 2019

An international research team led by the University of Liverpool and McMaster University has made a significant breakthrough in the search for new states of matter.

Revealing the black hole at the heart of the galaxy

January 22, 2019

Including the powerful ALMA into an array of telescopes for the first time, astronomers have found that the emission from the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* at the center of the galaxy comes from a smaller region ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.