Effects of age and locomotor demand on foot mechanics during walking.
Rebecca L. Krupenevich, Samuel F. Ray, Howard E. Kashefsky, Kota Z. Takahashi, Jason R. Franz
Abstract. Older adults exhibit reductions in trailing leg push-off power that are often attributed to deficits in plantarflexor force-generating capacity. However, growing evidence suggests that the foot may also contribute to push-off power during walking. Thus, age-related changes in foot structure and function may contribute to altered foot mechanics and ultimately reduced push-off power. The purpose of this paper was to quantify age-related differences in foot mechanical work during walking across a range of speeds and, at a single fixed speed with varied demands for trailing leg push-off. 9 young and 10 older adults walked at 1.0, 1.2, and 1.4 m/s, and at 1.2 m/s with an aiding or impeding horizontal pulling force equal to 5% BW. We calculated foot work in Visual3D using a unified deformable foot model, accounting for contributions of structures distal to the hindfoot’s center-of-mass. Older adults walked while performing less positive foot work and more negative net foot work (p<0.05). Further, we found that the effect of age on mechanical work performed by the foot and the ankle-foot complex increased with increased locomotor demand (p<0.05). Our findings suggest that during walking, age-related differences in foot mechanics may contribute to reduced push-off intensity via greater energy loss from distal foot structures, particularly during walking tasks with a greater demand for foot power generation. These findings are the first step in understanding the role of the foot in push-off power deficits in older adults and may serve as a roadmap for developing future low-cost mobility interventions.