Indexed on: 01 Nov '11Published on: 01 Nov '11Published in: Journal of biomechanics
Humans use equal push-off and heel strike work during the double support phase to minimize the mechanical work done on the center of mass (CoM) during the gait. Recently, a step-to-step transition was reported to occur over a period of time greater than that of the double support phase, which brings into question whether the energetic optimality is sensitive to the definition of the step-to-step transition. To answer this question, the ground reaction forces (GRFs) of seven normal human subjects walking at four different speeds (1.1-2.4 m/s) were measured, and the push-off and heel strike work for three differently defined step-to-step transitions were computed based on the force, work, and velocity. To examine the optimality of the work and the impulse data, a hybrid theoretical-empirical analysis is presented using a dynamic walking model that allows finite time for step-to-step transitions and incorporates the effects of gravity within this period. The changes in the work and impulse were examined parametrically across a range of speeds. The results showed that the push-off work on the CoM was well balanced by the heel strike work for all three definitions of the step-to-step transition. The impulse data were well matched by the optimal impulse predictions (R(2)>0.7) that minimized the mechanical work done on the CoM during the gait. The results suggest that the balance of push-off and heel strike energy is a consistent property arising from the overall gait dynamics, which implies an inherited oscillatory behavior of the CoM, possibly by spring-like leg mechanics.