Although there have been many lower limb robotic exoskeletons that have been tested for human walking, few devices have been tested for assisting running. It is possible that a pseudo-passive elastic exoskeleton could benefit human running without the addition of electrical motors due to the spring-like behavior of the human leg. We developed an elastic lower limb exoskeleton that added stiffness in parallel with the entire lower limb. Six healthy, young subjects ran on a treadmill at 2.3 m/s with and without the exoskeleton. Although the exoskeleton was designed to provide ~50% of normal leg stiffness during running, it only provided 24% of leg stiffness during testing. The difference in added leg stiffness was primarily due to soft tissue compression and harness compliance decreasing exoskeleton displacement during stance. As a result, the exoskeleton only supported about 7% of the peak vertical ground reaction force. There was a significant increase in metabolic cost when running with the exoskeleton compared with running without the exoskeleton (ANOVA, P < .01). We conclude that 2 major roadblocks to designing successful lower limb robotic exoskeletons for human running are human-machine interface compliance and the extra lower limb inertia from the exoskeleton.
Michael S. Cherry and Sridhar Kota are with the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. Aaron Young and Daniel P. Ferris are with the School of Kinesiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.