Direct measurement of the intrinsic ankle stiffness during standing

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Ankle stiffness contributes to standing balance, counteracting the destabilizing effect of gravity. The ankle stiffness together with the compliance between the foot and the support surface make up the ankle-foot stiffness, which is relevant to quiet standing. The contribution of the intrinsic ankle-foot stiffness to balance, and the ankle-foot stiffness amplitude dependency remain a topic of debate in the literature. We therefore developed an experimental protocol to directly measure the bilateral intrinsic ankle-foot stiffness during standing balance, and determine its amplitude dependency. By applying fast (40 ms) ramp-and-hold support surface rotations (0.005–0.08 rad) during standing, reflexive contributions could be excluded, and the amplitude dependency of the intrinsic ankle-foot stiffness was investigated. Results showed that reflexive activity could not have biased the torque used for estimating the intrinsic stiffness. Furthermore, subjects required less recovery action to restore balance after bilateral rotations in opposite directions compared to rotations in the same direction. The intrinsic ankle-foot stiffness appears insufficient to ensure balance, ranging from 0.93±0.09 to 0.44±0.06 (normalized to critical stiffness ‘mgh’). This implies that changes in muscle activation are required to maintain balance. The non-linear stiffness decrease with increasing rotation amplitude supports the previous published research. With the proposed method reflexive effects can be ruled out from the measured torque without any model assumptions, allowing direct estimation of intrinsic stiffness during standing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1258-1263
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of biomechanics
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • METIS-310817
  • IR-98203


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