Controlling minimum toe clearance (MTC) is considered an important factor in preventing tripping. In the current study, we investigated modifications of neuro-muscular control underlying toe clearance during steady locomotion induced by repeated exposure to tripping-like perturbations of the right swing foot. Fourteen healthy young adults (mean age 26.4 ± 3.1 years) participated in the study. The experimental protocol consisted of three identical trials, each involving three phases: steady walking (baseline), perturbation, and steady walking (post-perturbation). During the perturbation, participants experienced 30 tripping-like perturbations at unexpected timing delivered by a custom-made mechatronic perturbation device. The temporal parameters (cadence and stance phase%), mean, and standard deviation of MTC were computed across approximately 90 strides collected during both baseline and post-perturbation phases, for all trials. The effects of trial (three levels), phase (two levels: baseline and post-perturbation) and foot (two levels: right and left) on the outcome variables were analyzed using a three-way repeated measures analysis of variance. The results revealed that exposure to repeated trip-like perturbations modified MTC toward more precise control and lower toe clearance of the swinging foot, which appeared to reflect both the expectation of potential forthcoming perturbations and a quicker compensatory response in cases of a lack of balance. Moreover, locomotion control enabled subjects to maintain symmetric rhythmic features during post-perturbation steady walking. Finally, the effects of exposure to perturbation quickly disappeared among consecutive trials.
- Minimum toe clearance
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology