A three-dimensional model of the lower limb containing 47 muscles was developed to study the differences between a two- and three-dimensional approach for determining internal loads, the role of the dynamic joint representation, and the behavior of different load-bearing criteria in walking and running. The problem of redundancy of the musculo-skeletal system was resolved by applying inverse dynamics and static optimization methods. Different hypothetical load-bearing capabilities of hinge, spherical and intermediate joint types for the knee and the ankle joints were tested. It was found that even almost planar movements such as walking and running are associated with significant three-dimensional intersegment moments, especially in the frontal plane. Thus, a two-dimensional approach may underestimate internal loads up to 60%. It is shown that pure hinge joints are inappropriate for modeling the dynamical joint function of the knee and ankle joints. A more flexible joint representation in combination with a squared muscle stress minimization criterion predicted a lot of synergistic as well as antagonistic muscle activation which was also found in the EMG patterns. The results indicate the importance of muscular joint stabilization in natural human movements. Compared to in vivo measurements it is speculated that the predicted force magnitudes are considerably overestimated due to error propagation and still insufficient anatomical models. Thus, increased efforts to improve further the reliability of internal load calculations should be made in the future.