Effective leg stiffness in running

J Biomech. 2009 Oct 16;42(14):2400-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2009.06.040. Epub 2009 Aug 3.


Leg stiffness is a common parameter used to characterize leg function during bouncing gaits, like running and hopping. In the literature, different methods to approximate leg stiffness based on kinetic and kinematic parameters are described. A challenging point in estimating leg stiffness is the definition of leg compression during contact. In this paper four methods (methods A-D) based on ground reaction forces (GRF) and one method (method E) relying on temporal parameters are described. Leg stiffness calculated by these five methods is compared with running patterns, predicted by the spring mass model. The best and simplest approximation of leg stiffness is method E. It requires only easily accessible parameters (contact time, flight time, resting leg length, body mass and the leg's touch down angle). Method D is of similar quality but additionally requires the time-dependent progression of the GRF. The other three methods show clear differences from the model predictions by over- or underestimating leg stiffness, especially at slow speeds. Leg stiffness is derived from a conceptual model of legged locomotion and does not exist without this model. Therefore, it is important to prove which experimental method is suited best for approximating the stiffness in a specific task. This will help to interpret the predictions of the conceptual model in comparison with experimental data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Elastic Modulus / physiology*
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Running / physiology*
  • Stress, Mechanical