Does a crouched leg posture enhance running stability and robustness?

J Theor Biol. 2011 Jul 21;281(1):97-106. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2011.04.029. Epub 2011 May 11.

Abstract

Humans and birds both walk and run bipedally on compliant legs. However, differences in leg architecture may result in species-specific leg control strategies as indicated by the observed gait patterns. In this work, control strategies for stable running are derived based on a conceptual model and compared with experimental data on running humans and pheasants (Phasianus colchicus). From a model perspective, running with compliant legs can be represented by the planar spring mass model and stabilized by applying swing leg control. Here, linear adaptations of the three leg parameters, leg angle, leg length and leg stiffness during late swing phase are assumed. Experimentally observed kinematic control parameters (leg rotation and leg length change) of human and avian running are compared, and interpreted within the context of this model, with specific focus on stability and robustness characteristics. The results suggest differences in stability characteristics and applied control strategies of human and avian running, which may relate to differences in leg posture (straight leg posture in humans, and crouched leg posture in birds). It has been suggested that crouched leg postures may improve stability. However, as the system of control strategies is overdetermined, our model findings suggest that a crouched leg posture does not necessarily enhance running stability. The model also predicts different leg stiffness adaptation rates for human and avian running, and suggests that a crouched avian leg posture, which is capable of both leg shortening and lengthening, allows for stable running without adjusting leg stiffness. In contrast, in straight-legged human running, the preparation of the ground contact seems to be more critical, requiring leg stiffness adjustment to remain stable. Finally, analysis of a simple robustness measure, the normalized maximum drop, suggests that the crouched leg posture may provide greater robustness to changes in terrain height.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Birds / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Running / physiology*
  • Young Adult