Energetics of actively powered locomotion using the simplest walking model

J Biomech Eng. 2002 Feb;124(1):113-20. doi: 10.1115/1.1427703.


We modified an irreducibly simple model of passive dynamic walking to walk on level ground, and used it to study the energetics of walking and the preferred relationship between speed and step length in humans. Powered walking was explored using an impulse applied at toe-off immediately before heel strike, and a torque applied on the stance leg. Although both methods can supply energy through mechanical work on the center of mass, the toe-off impulse is four times less costly because it decreases the collision loss at heel strike. We also studied the use of a hip torque on the swing leg that tunes its frequency but adds no propulsive energy to gait. This spring-like actuation can further reduce the collision loss at heel strike, improving walking energetics. An idealized model yields a set of simple power laws relating the toe-off impulses and effective spring constant to the speed and step length of the corresponding gait. Simulations incorporating nonlinear equations of motion and more realistic inertial parameters show that these power laws apply to more complex models as well.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Computer Simulation
  • Elasticity
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Foot / physiology*
  • Hip / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Posture / physiology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Torque
  • Walking / physiology*