The Foot's Arch and the Energetics of Human Locomotion

Sarah M. Stearne, Kirsty A. McDonald, Jacqueline A. Alderson, Ian North, Charles E. Oxnard, Jonas Rubenson

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Abstract

The energy-sparing spring theory of the foot's arch has become central to interpretations of the foot's mechanical function and evolution. Using a novel insole technique that restricted compression of the foot's longitudinal arch, this study provides the first direct evidence that arch compression/recoil during locomotion contributes to lowering energy cost. Restricting arch compression near maximally (∼80%) during moderate-speed (2.7 ms-1) level running increased metabolic cost by + 6.0% (p < 0.001, d = 0.67; unaffected by foot strike technique). A simple model shows that the metabolic energy saved by the arch is largely explained by the passive-elastic work it supplies that would otherwise be done by active muscle. Both experimental and model data confirm that it is the end-range of arch compression that dictates the energy-saving role of the arch. Restricting arch compression had no effect on the cost of walking or incline running (3°), commensurate with the smaller role of passive-elastic mechanics in these gaits. These findings substantiate the elastic energy-saving role of the longitudinal arch during running, and suggest that arch supports used in some footwear and orthotics may increase the cost of running.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number19403
JournalScientific reports
Volume6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 19 2016

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Stearne, S. M., McDonald, K. A., Alderson, J. A., North, I., Oxnard, C. E., & Rubenson, J. (2016). The Foot's Arch and the Energetics of Human Locomotion. Scientific reports, 6, [19403]. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep19403