Limitations imposed by wearing armour on Medieval soldiers' locomotor performance

Graham N. Askew, Federico Formenti, Alberto E. Minetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


In Medieval Europe, soldiers wore steel plate armour for protection during warfare. Armour design reflected a trade-off between protection and mobility it offered the wearer. By the fifteenth century, a typical suit of field armour weighed between 30 and 50 kg and was distributed over the entire body. How much wearing armour affected Medieval soldiers' locomotor energetics and biomechanics is unknown. We investigated the mechanics and the energetic cost of locomotion in armour, and determined the effects on physical performance. We found that the net cost of locomotion (C(met)) during armoured walking and running is much more energetically expensive than unloaded locomotion. C(met) for locomotion in armour was 2.1-2.3 times higher for walking, and 1.9 times higher for running when compared with C(met) for unloaded locomotion at the same speed. An important component of the increased energy use results from the extra force that must be generated to support the additional mass. However, the energetic cost of locomotion in armour was also much higher than equivalent trunk loading. This additional cost is mostly explained by the increased energy required to swing the limbs and impaired breathing. Our findings can predict age-associated decline in Medieval soldiers' physical performance, and have potential implications in understanding the outcomes of past European military battles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)640-4
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society
Issue number1729
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2012


  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Locomotion
  • Male
  • Military Personnel
  • Protective Clothing
  • Weight-Bearing

Cite this