Estimates of muscle function in human gait depend on how foot-ground contact is modelled

Comput Methods Biomech Biomed Engin. 2012;15(6):657-68. doi: 10.1080/10255842.2011.554413. Epub 2011 May 27.


Computational analyses of leg-muscle function in human locomotion commonly assume that contact between the foot and the ground occurs at discrete points on the sole of the foot. Kinematic constraints acting at these contact points restrict the motion of the foot and, therefore, alter model calculations of muscle function. The aim of this study was to evaluate how predictions of muscle function obtained from musculoskeletal models are influenced by the model used to simulate ground contact. Both single- and multiple-point contact models were evaluated. Muscle function during walking and running was determined by quantifying the contributions of individual muscles to the vertical, fore-aft and mediolateral components of the ground reaction force (GRF). The results showed that two factors--the number of foot-ground contact points assumed in the model and the type of kinematic constraint enforced at each point--affect the model predictions of muscle coordination. Whereas single- and multiple-point contact models produced similar predictions of muscle function in the sagittal plane, inconsistent results were obtained in the mediolateral direction. Kinematic constraints applied in the sagittal plane altered the model predictions of muscle contributions to the vertical and fore-aft GRFs, while constraints applied in the frontal plane altered the calculations of muscle contributions to the mediolateral GRF. The results illustrate the sensitivity of calculations of muscle coordination to the model used to simulate foot-ground contact.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Foot*
  • Gait*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*