Muscle activity reduces soft-tissue resonance at heel-strike during walking

J Biomech. 2003 Dec;36(12):1761-9. doi: 10.1016/s0021-9290(03)00216-1.


Muscle activity has previously been suggested to minimize soft-tissue resonance which occurs at heel-strike during walking and running. If this concept were true then the greatest vibration damping would occur when the input force was closest to the resonant frequency of the soft-tissues at heel-strike. However, this idea has not been tested. The purpose of this study was to test whether muscle activity in the lower extremity is used to damp soft-tissue resonance which occurs at heel-strike during walking. Hard and soft shoe conditions were tested in a randomized block design. Ground reaction forces, soft-tissue accelerations and myoelectric activity were measured during walking for 40 subjects. Soft-tissue mass was estimated from anthropologic measurements, allowing inertial forces in the soft-tissues to be calculated. The force transfer from the ground to the tissues was compared with changes in the muscle activity. The soft condition resulted in relative frequencies (input/tissue) to be closer to resonance for the main soft-tissue groups. However, no increase in force transmission was observed. Therefore, the vibration damping in the tissues must have increased. This increase concurred with increases in the muscle activity for the biceps femoris and lateral gastrocnemius. The evidence supports the proposal that muscle activity damps soft-tissue resonance at heel-strike. Muscles generate forces which act across the joints and, therefore, shoe design may be used to modify muscle activity and thus joint loading during walking and running.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration
  • Adult
  • Ankle Joint / physiology*
  • Connective Tissue / physiology*
  • Electromyography / methods*
  • Female
  • Heel / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Postural Balance / physiology
  • Shoes
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Vibration
  • Walking / physiology*