Journal of experimental biology vol:211 issue:23 pages:3661-3670
The mechanics of the modern human foot and its specialization for habitual bipedalism are well understood. The windlass mechanism gives it the required stability for propulsion generation, and flattening of the arch and stretching of the plantar aponeurosis leads to energy saving. What is less well understood is how an essentially flat and mobile foot, as found in protohominins and extant apes, functions during bipedalism. This study evaluates the hypothesis that an energy-saving mechanism, by stretch and recoil of plantar connective tissues, is present in the mobile gibbon foot and provides a two-dimensional analysis of the internal joint mechanics of the foot during spontaneous bipedalism of gibbons using a four-link segment foot model. Available force and pressure data are combined with detailed foot kinematics, recorded with a high-speed camera at 250 Hz, to calculate the external joint moments at the metatarsophalangeal (MP), tarsometatarsal (TM) and talocrural (TC) joints. In addition, instantaneous joint powers are estimated to obtain insight into the propulsion-generating capacities of the internal foot joints. It is found that, next to a wide range of motion at the TC joint, substantial motion is observed at the TM and MP joint, underlining the importance of using a multi-segment foot model in primate gait analyses. More importantly, however, this study shows that although a compliant foot is less mechanically effective for push-off than a 'rigid' arched foot, it can contribute to the generation of propulsion in bipedal locomotion via stretch and recoil of the plantarflexor tendons and plantar ligaments.