A Phase-Dependent Hypothesis for Locomotor Functions of Human Foot Complex

Lei Ren, David Howard, Lu-quan Ren, Chris Nester, Li-mei Tian

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    18 Citations (Scopus)


    The human foot is a very complex structure comprising numerous bones, muscles, ligaments and synovial joints. As the only component in contact with the ground, the foot complex delivers a variety of biomechanical functions during human locomotion, e.g. body support and propulsion, stability maintenance and impact absorption. These need the human foot to be rigid and damped to transmit ground reaction forces to the upper body and maintain body stability, and also to be compliant and resilient to moderate risky impacts and save energy. How does the human foot achieve these apparent conflicting function. In this study, we propose a phase-dependent hypothesis for the overall locomotor functions of the human foot complex based on in-vivo measurements of human natural gait and simulation results of a mathematical foot model. We propse that foot functions are highly dependent on gait phase, which is a major characteristics of human locomotion. In early stance just after heel strike, the foot mainly works as a shock absorber by moderating high impacts using the viscouselastic heel pad in both vertical and horizontal directions. In mid-stance phase (similar to 80% of stance phase), the foot complex can be considered as a springy rocker, reserving external mechanical work using the foot arch whilst moving ground contact point forward along a curved path to maintain body stability. In late stance after heel off, the foot complex mainly serves as a force modulator like a gear box, modulating effective mechanical advantages of ankle plantiflexor muscles using metatarsal-phalangeal joints. A sound understanding of how diverse functions are implemented in a simple foot segment during human locomotion might be useful to gain insight into the overall foot locomotor functions and hence to facilitate clinical diagnosis, rehabilitation product design and humanoid robot development.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)175 - 180
    Number of pages6
    JournalJournal of Bionic Engineering
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2008

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