Friday, 11 March 2011

It's all in the toes

In Tai chi we are often told to grip the ground with our toes. Well it turns out that toe strength helps determine how balanced you can be (surprise), as this computer simulation shows. To quote from the survey:
"Hemami and a colleague, Laura Humphrey, designed a computer model of a body and foot which assigned four different sections to represent different parts of the foot, while assigning the body one section. This allowed Hemami and Humphrey to focus primarily on the pressure of the feet and toes as they manipulated the forward motion.
The model that Hemami and Humphrey built allowed them to produce results that supported the findings of balance shown in real subjects. They conducted tests for three different cases: static balance in healthy subjects, static balance in subjects with diminished toe strength, and forward leaning in healthy subjects.
In order to have the model mimic a subject with diminished toe strength, Hemami and Humphrey weakened one of the sections in the computer-modeled foot, which represented a muscle located just above the big toe. This muscle helps control the foot's arch, which provides support to the body while standing.
Results indicated that in a healthy person, toes became increasingly important as the person leans forward. The maximum angle that a healthy computer-modeled body could lean forward from the waist without its heels lifting off the ground was nearly 12 degrees from vertical. The model with diminished toe strength could only lean forward nearly 10 degrees."

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