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The cost of being on your toes
Date:2/12/2010

ecreases the leverage, decreases the mechanical advantage" compared with walking heel-first, Carrier says.

In sum, walking heel-first is not more economical because it is more stable or involves fewer, longer strides, but because when we land on our heels, less energy is lost to the ground, we have more leverage, and kinetic and potential energy are converted more efficiently.

Form and Function of the Foot

If heel-first walking is so economical, why do so many animals walk other ways?

"They are adapted for running," Carrier says. "They've compromised their economy of walking for the economy of running."

"Humans are very good at running long distances. We are physiologically and anatomically specialized for running long distances. But the anatomy of our feet is not consistent with economical running. Think of all the animals that are the best runners gazelles, deer, horses, dogs they all run on the ball of their feet or the tips of their toes."

When people run, why is there no difference in the amount of energy they expend when stepping first onto their heels versus the balls of their feet or toes?

The answer is unknown, but "if you land on your heel when you run, the force underneath the foot shoots very quickly to the ball of your foot," Carrier says. "Even when we run with a heel plant, most of the step our weight is supported by the ball of our foot. Lots of elite athletes, whether sprinters or distance runners, don't land on their heel. Many of them run on the balls of their feet," as do people who run barefoot. That appears to be the natural ancestral condition for early human runners, he adds.

"The important thing is we are remarkable economical walkers," Carrier says. "We are not efficient runners. In fact, we consume more energy to run than the typical mammal our size. But we are exceptionally economical walkers."

"This study suggests that one of the things
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Contact: Lee Siegel
leesiegel@ucomm.utah.edu
801-581-8993
University of Utah
Source:Eurekalert  

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