Shreyas Mandre

Associate Professor
Mathematics Institute, University of Warwick

Dynamics and stability of running on rough terrains R. Soc. Open Sci. 6: 181729 (2019) PDF

by Dhawale, Mandre and Venkadesan
Biomechanics Running


Stability of running on rough terrain depends on the propagation of perturbations due to the ground. We consider stability within the sagittal plane and model the dynamics of running as a two-dimensional body with alternating aerial and stance phases. Stance is modelled as a passive, impulsive collision followed by an active, impulsive push-off that compensates for collisional losses. Such a runner has infinitely many strategies to maintain periodic gaits on flat ground. However, these strategies differ in how perturbations due to terrain unevenness are propagated. Instabilities manifest as tumbling (orientational instability) or failing to maintain a steady speed (translational instability). We find that open-loop strategies that avoid sensory feedback are sufficient to maintain stability on step-like terrains with piecewise flat surfaces that randomly vary in height. However, these open-loop runners lose orientational stability on rough terrains whose slope also varies randomly. The orientational instability is significantly mitigated by minimizing the tangential collision, which typically requires sensory information and anticipatory strategies such as leg retraction. By analysing the propagation of perturbations, we derive a single dimensionless parameter that governs stability. This parameter provides guidelines for the design and control of both biological and robotic runners.