A novel approach to mechanical foot stimulation during human locomotion under body weight support

S. Gravano, Y. P. Ivanenko, G. Maccioni, V. Macellari, R. E. Poppele, F. Lacquaniti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Input from the foot plays an essential part in perceiving support surfaces and determining kinematic events in human walking. To simulate adequate tactile pressure inputs under body weight support (BWS) conditions that represent an effective form of locomotion training, we here developed a new method of phasic mechanical foot stimulation using light-weight pneumatic insoles placed inside the shoes (under the heel and metatarsus). To test the system, we asked healthy participants to walk on a treadmill with different levels of BWS. The pressure under the stimulated areas of the feet and subjective sensations were higher at high levels of BWS and when applied to the ball and toes rather than heels. Foot stimulation did not disturb significantly the normal motor pattern, and in all participants we evoked a reliable step-synchronized triggering of stimuli for each leg separately. This approach has been performed in a general framework looking for " afferent templates" of human locomotion that could be used for functional sensory stimulation. The proposed technique can be used to imitate or partially restore surrogate contact forces under body weight support conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-367
Number of pages16
JournalHuman Movement Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


  • Foot-support interactions
  • Functional sensory stimulation
  • Human walking
  • Loading

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Biophysics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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