This study investigated the energetics of the human ankle during the stance phase of downhill walking with the goal of modeling ankle behavior with a passive spring and damper mechanism. Kinematic and kinetic data were collected on eight male participants while walking down a ramp with inclination varying from 0° to 8°. The ankle joint moment in the sagittal plane was calculated using inverse dynamics. Mechanical energy injected or dissipated at the ankle joint was computed by integrating the power across the duration of the stance phase. The net mechanical energy of the ankle was approximately zero for level walking and monotonically decreased (i.e., became increasingly negative) during downhill walking as the slope decreased. The indication is that the behavior of the ankle is energetically passive during downhill walking, playing a key role in dissipating energy from one step to the next. A passive mechanical model consisting of a pin joint coupled with a revolute spring and damper was fit to the ankle torque and its parameters were estimated for each downhill slope using linear regression. The passive model demonstrated good agreement with actual ankle dynamics as indicated by low root-mean-square error values. These results indicate the stance phase behavior of the human ankle during downhill walking may be effectively duplicated by a passive mechanism with appropriately selected spring and damping characteristics.
Jonathan K. Holm (Corresponding Author) is with the Electronics and Machine Systems Division, Caterpillar, Inc., Mossville, IL. Jonas Contakos is with the Department of Kinesiology & Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL. Sang-Wook Lee is with the Sensory Motor Performance Program, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL. John Jang is with the Department of Linguistics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana IL.