There’s an interesting story at Wired about the biomechanics of walking in humans, focusing on the so-called second bounce, “[t]hat is, the knee bends and extends once when the foot first touches down, then again just before takeoff”.
In a Physical Review E paper published last month, scientists at the University of Munich may have found an answer. By modeling the physical forces that drive our double bounce, they deduced that it’s an energy-saving technique for a species that has long prioritized endurance over speed—which may be a clue about why humans evolved such an odd gait. Now, they think their model can help improve prosthetic and robotic designs, and may even lend insight into the evolutionary pressures our ancestors faced.
In essence, researchers reduced the biomechanical components of human walking from “what all of the muscles, tendons, and joints of the lower body are doing” to “just four joints at the hip, knee, ankle, and toes” in order to home in on an answer.
Just over a year ago, I had an evaluation for developmental coordination disorder in which my occupational therapist said that I walk very methodically, evidence that my mental and bodily cognition is working overtime in order to get everything “right”—which explained why I always feel like my internal sense of proprioception when walking never quite matches the way I see other people moving.
All of which mostly just is introduction to the fact that after I read this article I went to brunch a few blocks away from my apartment and I had to focus on not paying too much attention to how I was walking, for fear that I’d immediately go toppling over.