Impaired ankle plantar flexor (APF) function is a frequent cause of gait limitations, but the role of the APF in the forward propulsion of the body remains controversial. To better understand both the direct and indirect effects of the APF during push-off and through advancement of the leg, mechanical work and inverse dynamic analyses were performed on 8 normal subjects during level walking. During push-off, 23.1 joules (J) of energy were generated, primarily by the APF, but only 4.2 J of this energy is transferred into the trunk. Ankle plantar flexor work is primarily used to accelerate the leg into swing. Most of the energy, 18.6 J, is recovered by transfer into the trunk at the end of swing. The timing of the energy transfers relative to the trunk motion imply that the APF contributes to the forward kinetic energy of the trunk but that other mechanisms likely account for the work used to raise the trunk against gravity.
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