The effects of posture on the three-dimensional gait mechanics of human walking in comparison with walking in bipedal chimpanzees

Russell T. Johnson*, Matthew C. O’Neill, Brian R. Umberger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Humans walk with an upright posture on extended limbs during stance and with a double-peaked vertical ground reaction force. Our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, are facultative bipeds that walk with a crouched posture on flexed, abducted hind limbs and with a single-peaked vertical ground reaction force. Differences in human and bipedal chimpanzee three-dimensional (3D) kinematics have been well quantified, yet it is unclear what the independent effects of using a crouched posture are on 3D gait mechanics for humans, and how they compare with chimpanzees. Understanding the relationships between posture and gait mechanics, with known differences in morphology between species, can help researchers better interpret the effects of trait evolution on bipedal walking. We quantified pelvis and lower limb 3D kinematics and ground reaction forces as humans adopted a series of upright and crouched postures and compared them with data from bipedal chimpanzee walking. Human crouched-posture gait mechanics were more similar to that of bipedal chimpanzee gait than to normal human walking, especially in sagittal plane hip and knee angles. However, there were persistent differences between species, as humans walked with less transverse plane pelvis rotation, less hip abduction, and greater peak anterior–posterior ground reaction force in late stance than chimpanzees. Our results suggest that human crouched-posture walking reproduces only a small subset of the characteristics of 3D kinematics and ground reaction forces of chimpanzee walking, with the remaining differences likely due to the distinct musculoskeletal morphologies of humans and chimpanzees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberjeb243272
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Bent-hip bent-knee
  • Bipedalism
  • Ground reaction forces
  • Hominin evolution
  • Kinematics
  • Morphology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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