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Human use heel first gait because it is efficient for walking
Date:2/12/2010

uld be completely wiped out if we switched to walking on our toes. 'Our ability to walk economically may largely be the result of our plantigrade [heel first] posture,' says Carrier.

But why is heel walking so much more efficient than walking on our toes? To find out, Carrier and his colleagues asked volunteers to run and walk at various speeds in the three postures while recording electrical activity in their muscles to see if the heel first walkers were saving energy by using their muscles differently from toe first walkers. The team also measured the volunteers' metabolic cost of standing on their toes, to find out if increasing stability saved energy, and the forces exerted by the ground on the volunteers' bodies, in case they were reduced in any way that could result in an energy saving.

Analysing the results, the team realised that we lose less energy as our heels collide with the ground than we do when we walk toes first. Landing heel first also allows us to transfer more energy from one step to the next to improve our efficiency, while placing the foot flat on the ground reduces the forces around the ankle (generated by the ground pushing against us), which our muscles have to counteract, resulting in another energy saving.

So we still use our ancestor's heel first gait because it makes us better walkers and Carrier adds, 'Given the great distances hunter-gatherers travel, it is not surprising that humans are economical walkers'.


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Contact: Kathryn Knight
kathryn@biologists.com
44-787-634-4333
The Company of Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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