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J Biomech Eng. 2001 Jun;123(3):264-9.

A simple model of bipedal walking predicts the preferred speed-step length relationship.

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Dept. of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109-2125, USA.


We used a simple model of passive dynamic walking, with the addition of active powering on level ground, to study the preferred relationship between speed and step length in humans. We tested several hypothetical metabolic costs, with one component proportional to the mechanical work associated with pushing off with the stance leg at toe-off, and another component associated with several possible costs of forcing oscillations of the swing leg. For this second component, a cost based on the amount of force needed to oscillate the leg divided by the time duration of that force predicts the preferred speed-step length relationship much better than other costs, such as the amount of mechanical work done in swinging the leg. The cost of force/time models the need to recruit fast muscle fibers for large forces at short durations. The actual mechanical work performed by muscles on the swing leg appears to be of relatively less importance, although it appears to be minimized by the use of short bursts of muscle activity in near-isometric conditions. The combined minimization of toe-off mechanical work and force divided by time predicts the preferred speed-step length relationship.

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