Foot placement modulation diminishes for perturbations near foot contact

Mark Vlutters* (Corresponding Author), Edwin H.F. Van Asseldonk, Herman van der Kooij

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    18 Citations (Scopus)
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    Whenever a perturbation occurs during walking we have to maintain our balance using the recovery strategies that are available to us. Foot placement adjustment is often considered an important recovery strategy. However, because this strategy takes time it is likely a poor option if the foot is close to contact at the instant a perturbation occurs. The main goal of this study is to gain a better understanding of how humans deal with balance perturbations during walking if foot placement adjustments are constrained by time. Ten healthy subjects walked on an instrumented treadmill and received mediolateral and anteroposterior pelvis perturbations at various instances during the single support phase. The results show that foot placement modulation in the first recovery step following anteroposterior perturbations is fairly invariant of the perturbation magnitude and direction, regardless of the onset instance. For mediolateral perturbations, foot placement adjustments strongly modulate with the perturbation magnitude and direction, but these effects diminish when the perturbation onset is closer to the instant of foot contact. For most perturbations the first recovery step was consistent across subjects for all onset instances. However, in the second step various strategies arose that were not consistent across subjects, nor within subjects, especially for perturbations applied close to foot contact. Despite these different strategies, the COP location following foot contact strongly related to the COM velocity throughout these strategies. The results show that humans have various ways to compensate for limited availability of a foot placement strategy, with strategy selection highly dependent on the instant during the gait phase at which the perturbation is applied.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number48
    JournalFrontiers in bioengineering and biotechnology
    Issue numberMAY
    Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2018


    • Balance control
    • Capture point
    • Extrapolated center of mass
    • Foot placement
    • Perturbed human walking


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