Spring-mass running: simple approximate solution and application to gait stability

J Theor Biol. 2005 Feb 7;232(3):315-28. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2004.08.015.


The planar spring-mass model is frequently used to describe bouncing gaits (running, hopping, trotting, galloping) in animal and human locomotion and robotics. Although this model represents a rather simple mechanical system, an analytical solution predicting the center of mass trajectory during stance remains open. We derive an approximate solution in elementary functions assuming a small angular sweep and a small spring compression during stance. The predictive power and quality of this solution is investigated for model parameters relevant to human locomotion. The analysis shows that (i), for spring compressions of up to 20% (angle of attack > or = 60 degree, angular sweep < or = 60 degree) the approximate solution describes the stance dynamics of the center of mass within a 1% tolerance of spring compression and 0.6 degree tolerance of angular motion compared to numerical calculations, and (ii), despite its relative simplicity, the approximate solution accurately predicts stable locomotion well extending into the physiologically reasonable parameter domain. (iii) Furthermore, in a particular case, an explicit parametric dependency required for gait stability can be revealed extending an earlier, empirically found relationship. It is suggested that this approximation of the planar spring-mass dynamics may serve as an analytical tool for application in robotics and further research on legged locomotion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Running / physiology*