Emerging Technology from the arXiv

A View from Emerging Technology from the arXiv

Revealing the secrets of human gait

A simple measure of the forces involved in walking may help diagnose and treat injuries and arthritis

  • May 25, 2009

On the face of it, human gait seems a symmetrical affair. But int he last few years, varfious ways of measuring gait have shown otherwise. Video studies, sensory shoes and force-measuring mats have shown that every individual has a different gait, characterised by tiny asymmetries in stepping patterns, forces and accelerations.

These idiosyncracies are revealing but they dramatically complicate our understanding of gait, making it impossible for biomechanicists to agree on the fundamental properties of gait. Strange as it may seem, there is no agreement on the invariant parameters that all human walkers must share.

Without this definition, it is hard to model gait accurately and impossible to agree on how best to rehabilitate people with an impaired gait.

So the work of Yifang Fan and pals at Jinan University in China is a refreshing step forward (so to speak). Fan and co say they have discovered an independent measure of gait which they call the vertical gait reaction force. This is a measure of the amount by which a person’s centre of gravity raises during two complete steps (with the left and then the right foot).

In healthy adults, and Fan and co have tested 173, this force is symmetrical with regard to left and right foot, a finding they call the principle of least action (in other words, the body does no more than it has to move you around). That’s useful, they say, because no other measure gives this kind of symmetric signal for all healthy people.

In adults carrying an ankle injury or with arthritis, the pattern of force is not symmetrical. That allows a quick diagnosis simply by measuring this force and may in future point to the type of rehabilitation that may treat the condition.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0905.3499: Least Action Principle in Gait

Get stories like this before anyone else with First Look.

Subscribe today
Already a Premium subscriber? Log in.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look: exclusive early access to important stories, before they’re available to anyone else

    Insider Conversations: listen in on in-depth calls between our editors and today’s thought leaders

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.