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J Biomech. 2008 Jul 19;41(10):2082-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2008.05.013. Epub 2008 Jul 7.

Walking with increased ankle pushoff decreases hip muscle moments.

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Division of Kinesiology, University of Michigan, 401 Washtenaw Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2214, USA.


In a simple bipedal walking model, an impulsive push along the trailing limb (similar to ankle plantar flexion) or a torque at the hip can power level walking. This suggests a tradeoff between ankle and hip muscle requirements during human gait. People with anterior hip pain may benefit from walking with increased ankle pushoff if it reduces hip muscle forces. The purpose of our study was to determine if simple instructions to alter ankle pushoff can modify gait dynamics and if resulting changes in ankle pushoff have an effect on hip muscle requirements during gait. We hypothesized that changes in ankle kinetics would be inversely related to hip muscle kinetics. Ten healthy subjects walked on a custom split-belt force-measuring treadmill at 1.25m/s. We recorded ground reaction forces and lower extremity kinematic data to calculate joint angles and internal muscle moments, powers and angular impulses. Subjects walked under three conditions: natural pushoff, decreased pushoff and increased pushoff. For the decreased pushoff condition, subjects were instructed to push less with their feet as they walked. Conversely, for the increased pushoff condition, subjects were instructed to push more with their feet. As predicted, walking with increased ankle pushoff resulted in lower peak hip flexion moment, power and angular impulse as well as lower peak hip extension moment and angular impulse (p<0.05). Our results emphasize the interchange between hip and ankle kinetics in human walking and suggest that increased ankle pushoff during gait may help to compensate for hip muscle weakness or injury and reduce hip joint forces.

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