Principles of economical gait and posture in humans and other vertebrates

James Usherwood (primary)
Royal Veterinary College
Alan Wilson (secondary)
Royal Veterinary College


Many questions remain concerning the drivers underlying selection of gait and posture. As examples:
What are the benefits to the stiff human foot? What are the implications of foot size? – why do shorter humans have proportionally larger feet? Why do humans show a discrete walk-run transition, and horses a discrete walk-trot transition, but ostriches and elephants not? Is there an advantage to the elbows-back, knees-forward posture of quadrupedal mammals? Why are small animals crouched if being upright reduces the structural demands of weight support? These and similar questions will be approached using kinetic and kinematic measurements, theoretical developments and modelling.


Usherwood, J.R. (2019). An extension to the collisional model of the energetic cost of support qualitatively explains trotting and the trot–canter transition. J Exp Zool. 10.1002/jez.2268

Usherwood, J.R. (2016). The muscle-mechanical compromise framework: implications for the scaling of gait and posture. J. Human Kinetics. DOI: 10.1515/hukin-2015-0198

Lichtwark GA, Wilson AM. Interactions between the human gastrocnemius muscle and the Achilles tendon during incline, level and decline locomotion. (2006). Journal of Experimental Biology. 209: 4379-4388.

Wilson AM, Hubel TY, Wilshin SD, Lowe JC, Lorenc M, Dewhirst OP, Bartlam-Brooks HLA, Diack R, Bennitt E, Golabek KA, Woledge RC, McNutt JW, Curtin NA, West TG. Biomechanics of predator-prey arms race in lion, zebra, cheetah and impala. (2018) Nature. 554: 183-188.

Usherwood, J.R. (2020). The possibility of zero limb-work gaits in sprawled and parasagittal quadrupeds: insights from linkages of the industrial revolution. Integrative Organismic Biology.

Genes, development and STEM* approaches to biology
Area of Biology
Techniques & Approaches
Mathematics / StatisticsSimulation / Modelling