We investigated the effect of reduced gravity on the human walk-run gait transition speed and interpreted the results using an inverted-pendulum mechanical model. We simulated reduced gravity using an apparatus that applied a nearly constant upward force at the center of mass, and the subjects walked and ran on a motorized treadmill. In the inverted pendulum model for walking, gravity provides the centripetal force needed to keep the pendulum in contact with the ground. The ratio of the centripetal and gravitational forces (mv2/L)/(mg) reduces to the dimensionless Froude number (v2/gL). Applying this model to a walking human, m is body mass, v is forward velocity, L is leg length and g is gravity. In normal gravity, humans and other bipeds with different leg lengths all choose to switch from a walk to a run at different absolute speeds but at approximately the same Froude number (0.5). We found that, at lower levels of gravity, the walk-run transition occurred at progressively slower absolute speeds but at approximately the same Froude number. This supports the hypothesis that the walk-run transition is triggered by the dynamics of an inverted-pendulum system.

This content is only available via PDF.