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Volume 27 Issue 8 - Publication Date: 1 August 2008
 
Stable Running with Segmented Legs
 
J. Rummel and A. Seyfarth Lauflabor Locomotion Laboratory, University of Jena, Dornburger Strasse 23, 07743 Jena, Germany
 
Spring-like leg behavior is found in both humans and animals when running. In a spring-mass model, running proves to be self-stable in terms of external perturbations or variations in leg properties (for example, landing angle). However, biological limbs are not made of springs, rather, they consist of segments where spring-like behavior can be localized at the joint level. Here, we use a two-segment leg model to investigate the effects of leg compliance originating from the joint level on running stability. Owing to leg geometry a non-linear relationship between leg force and leg compression is found. In contrast to the linear leg spring, the segmented leg is capable of reducing the minimum speed for self-stable running from 3.5 m s-1 in the springmass model to 1.5 m s-1 for almost straight joint configurations, which is below the preferred transition speed from human walking to running (≈2 m s-1). At moderate speeds the tolerated range of landing angle is largely increased (17° at 5 m s-1) compared with the linear leg spring model (2°). However, for fast running an increase in joint stiffness is required to compensate for the mechanical disadvantage of larger leg compression. This could be achieved through the use of non-linear springs to enhance joint stiffness in fast running.
 
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