Compliant leg behaviour explains basic dynamics of walking and running

Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Nov 22;273(1603):2861-7. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2006.3637.


The basic mechanics of human locomotion are associated with vaulting over stiff legs in walking and rebounding on compliant legs in running. However, while rebounding legs well explain the stance dynamics of running, stiff legs cannot reproduce that of walking. With a simple bipedal spring-mass model, we show that not stiff but compliant legs are essential to obtain the basic walking mechanics; incorporating the double support as an essential part of the walking motion, the model reproduces the characteristic stance dynamics that result in the observed small vertical oscillation of the body and the observed out-of-phase changes in forward kinetic and gravitational potential energies. Exploring the parameter space of this model, we further show that it not only combines the basic dynamics of walking and running in one mechanical system, but also reveals these gaits to be just two out of the many solutions to legged locomotion offered by compliant leg behaviour and accessed by energy or speed.

MeSH terms

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