A collisional model of the energetic cost of support work qualitatively explains leg sequencing in walking and galloping, pseudo-elastic leg behavior in running and the walk-to-run transition

J Theor Biol. 2005 Nov 21;237(2):170-92. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2005.04.004. Epub 2005 Jun 14.


Terrestrial legged locomotion requires repeated support forces to redirect the body's vertical velocity component from down to up. We assume that the redirection is accomplished by impulsive leg forces that cause small-angle glancing collisions of a point-mass model of the animal. We estimate the energetic costs of these collisions by assuming a metabolic cost proportional to positive muscle work involved in generating the impulses. The cost of bipedal running estimated from this collisional model becomes less than that of walking at a Froude number (v2/gl) of about 0.7. Two strategies to reduce locomotion costs associated with the motion redirection are: (1) having legs simulate purely elastic springs, as is observed in human running; and (2) sequencing the leg forces during the redirection phase; examples of this sequencing are the ba-da-dump pattern of a horse gallop and having push-off followed by heel-strike in human walking.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Leg*
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Work