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Biomechanics of human bipedal gallop: asymmetry dictates leg functions
Pieter Fiers, Dirk De Clercq, Veerle Segers, Peter Aerts


Unilateral skipping or bipedal galloping is one of the gait types humans are able to perform. In contrast to many animals, where gallop is the preferred gait at higher speeds, human bipedal gallop only occurs spontaneously in very specific conditions (e.g. fast down-hill locomotion). This study examines the lower limb mechanics and explores the possible reasons why humans do not spontaneously opt for gallop for steady state locomotion on level ground. In 12 subjects, who were required to run and gallop overground at their preferred speed, kinematic and kinetic data were collected and mechanical work at the main lower limb joints (hip, knee, ankle) was calculated. In a separate treadmill experiment, metabolic costs were measured. Analysis revealed that the principal differences between running and galloping are located at the hip. The asymmetrical configuration of gallop involves distinct hip actions and foot placing, giving galloping legs different functions compared with running legs: the trailing leg decelerates the body in vertical direction but propels it forward while the leading leg acts in the opposite way. Although both legs conserve mechanical energy by interchanging external mechanical energy with potential elastic energy, the specific orientation of the legs causes more energy dissipation and generation compared with running. This makes gallop metabolically more expensive and involves high muscular stress at the hips which may be the reasons why humans do not use gallop for steady state locomotion.