A dynamic model of the windlass mechanism of the foot: evidence for early stance phase preloading of the plantar aponeurosis

J Exp Biol. 2009 Aug;212(Pt 15):2491-9. doi: 10.1242/jeb.025767.


In the present study we have estimated the temporal elongation of the plantar aponeurosis (PA) during normal walking using a subject-specific multi-segment rigid-body model of the foot. As previous studies have suggested that muscular forces at the ankle can pre-load the PA prior to heel-strike, the main purpose of the current study was to test, through modelling, whether there is any tension present in the PA during early stance phase. Reflective markers were attached to bony landmarks to track the kinematics of the calcaneus, metatarsus and toes during barefoot walking. Ultrasonography measurements were performed on three subjects to determine both the location of the origin of the PA on the plantar aspect of the calcaneus, and the radii of the metatarsal heads. Starting with the foot in a neutral, unloaded position, inverse kinematics allowed calculation of the tension in the five slips of the PA during the whole duration of the stance phase. The results show that the PA experienced tension significantly above rest during early stance phase in all subjects (P<0.01), thus providing support for the PA-preloading hypothesis. The amount of preloading and the maximum elongation of the slips of the PA decreased from medial to lateral. The mean maximum tension exerted by the PA was 1.5 BW (body weight) over the three subjects.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Foot / anatomy & histology
  • Foot / diagnostic imaging
  • Foot / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Ultrasonography
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Weight-Bearing