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Walking on different grades becomes challenging on energetic and muscular levels compared to level walking. While it is not possible to eliminate the cost of raising or lowering the centre of mass (COM), it could be possible to minimize the cost of distal joints with shoes that offset downhill or uphill grades. We investigated the effects of shoe outsole geometry in 10 participants walking at 1 m s−1 on downhill, level and uphill grades. Level shoes minimized metabolic rate during level walking (Psecond-order effect < 0.001). However, shoes that entirely offset the (overall) treadmill grade did not minimize the metabolic rate of walking on grades: shoes with a +3° (upward) inclination minimized metabolic rate during downhill walking on a −6° grade, and shoes with a −3° (downward) inclination minimized metabolic rate during uphill walking on a +6° grade (P interaction effect = 0.023). Shoe inclination influenced (distal) ankle joint parameters, including soleus muscle activity, ankle moment and work rate, whereas treadmill grade influenced (whole-body) ground reaction force and COM work rate as well as (distal) ankle joint parameters including tibialis anterior and plantarflexor muscle activity, ankle moment and work rate. Similar modular footwear could be used to minimize joint loads or assist with walking on rolling terrain.


Electronic supplementary material is available online at 4829166.

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Royal Society Open Science





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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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Biomechanics Commons