Design and testing of a high-speed treadmill to measure ground reaction forces at the limit of human gait.

Research paper by Matthew W MW Bundle, Michael O MO Powell, Laurence J LJ Ryan

Indexed on: 06 Jul '15Published on: 06 Jul '15Published in: Medical Engineering & Physics


Investigations focused on the gait and physiological limits of human speed have been on-going for more than a century. However, due to measurement limitation a kinetic understanding of the foot-ground collision and how these dynamics differ between individuals to confer speed and limit gait has only recently begun to come forth. Therefore, we designed and tested an instrumented high-speed force treadmill to measure the forces occurring at the limits of human performance. The treadmill was designed to maximize flexural stiffness and natural frequency by using a honeycomb sandwich panel as the bed surface and a flexible drive shaft between the drive roller and servo motor to reduce the mass of the supported elements which contribute to the system's response frequency. The functional performance of the force treadmill met or exceeded the measurement criteria established for ideal force plates: high natural frequency (z-axis = 113 Hz), low crosstalk between components of the force (Fx/Fz = 0.0020[SD = 0.0010]; Fy/Fz = 0.0016[SD = 0.0003]), a linear response (R(2) > 0.999) for loading with known weights (range: 44-3857 N), and an accuracy of 2.5[SD = 1.7] mm and 2.8[SD = 1.5] mm in the x and y-axes, respectively, for the point of force application. In dynamic testing at running speeds up to 10 m s(-1), the measured durations and magnitudes of force application were similar between the treadmill and over-ground running using a force platform. This design provides a precise instrumented treadmill capable of recording multi-axis ground reaction forces applied during the foot ground contacts of the fastest men and animals known to science.