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Can treadmill walking be used to assess propulsion generation?

Journal of Biomechanics
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2008.03.009
  • Gait
  • Propulsion
  • Hemiparetic
  • Ground Reaction Forces
  • Physics


Abstract Instrumented treadmills offer significant advantages for analysis of human locomotion, including recording consecutive steady-state gait cycles, precisely controlling walking speed, and avoiding force plate targeting. However, some studies of hemiparetic walking on a treadmill have suggested that the moving treadmill belt may fundamentally alter propulsion mechanics. Any differences in propulsion mechanics during treadmill walking would be problematic since recent studies assessing propulsion have provided fundamental insight into hemiparetic walking. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that there would be no difference in the generation of anterior/posterior (A/P) propulsion by performing a carefully controlled comparison of the A/P ground reaction forces (GRFs) and impulses in healthy adults during treadmill and overground walking. Gait data were collected from eight subjects walking overground and on a treadmill with speed and cadence controlled. Peak negative and positive horizontal GRFs in early and late stance, respectively, were reduced by less than 5% of body weight ( p<0.05) during treadmill walking compared to overground walking. The magnitude of the braking impulse was similarly lower ( p<0.05) during treadmill walking, but no significant difference was found between propulsion impulses. While there were some subtle differences in A/P GRFs between overground and treadmill walking, these results suggest there is no fundamental difference in propulsion mechanics. We conclude that treadmill walking can be used to investigate propulsion generation in healthy and by implication clinical populations.

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