Best foot forward; On Your Feet Britain

Published On: April 28 2017


It’s official; sitting is the new smoking. Our sedentary behaviour (SB) is endangering our health, increasing our risk of chronic conditions including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, varicose veins, osteoporosis, dementia and depression. Yikes!

The aim of national On Your Feet Britain Day (Friday 28th April) is to encourage workers to stand more and sit less. As their slogan goes; Wiggle it, Waggle it, Just don’t sit on it. The campaign also encourages workers to walk to a colleague’s desk for a chat rather than sending an email, to walk up the stairs rather than take the lift, to walk to lunch rather than eat at your desk.


This approach assumes that everyone walks well, and safely. The reality can be rather different, especially for those with prosthetic lower limbs. Thanks to research using load cells, those walking on prosthetics (artificial limbs) are moving more easily and more naturally.


One of the issues with prosthetic feet, for example, is fine-tuning their rollover characteristics. The rollover reflects the way the prosthetic foot responds to the load applied by the amputee in a variety of everyday situations. The foot needs to move smoothly and consistently, avoiding issues such as laying the foot too flat too early in the walking movement.


According to an article in LER (lower extremity review) magazine, load cells were first used back in the 1980s, but came into their own in ground-breaking research in the early 2000s. Usually just one load cell is used, attached to the pylon of the limb, to measure the forces and movements happening at the socket.


This positioning of the load cell makes it possible:

“To measure the forces and moments occurring at the base of the socket. The forces and moments reflect the interaction of the foot with the gait characteristics of the amputee and indicate how the residual limb is being loaded and is respond­ing to the gait preferences of the amputee.”


Using load cells is far more efficient and accurate that analysing gait that using markers on the foot. Wireless load cells also enable data to be captured outside the laboratory in everyday  situations, and on every type of surface. The load cell data can also be used to record:

“time-related parameters of gait, including stance duration, swing duration, and cadence.”


A TED talk by Hugh Herr, director of the Biomechatronics research group at the MIT Media Lab, shows just how far prosthetics have come in the last twenty years. The researchers in the Biomechatronics group are working towards the “osseointegration of prosthetics”, to connect the prosthetics with existing muscles and tissues in the residual limb. Much of the testing of these highly advanced solutions involves measurements from load cells, including a sensory knee brace to link upper and lower legs, being developed by Alex Yang.


As one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of bespoke load cells, we’re delighted to be involved in various medical, scientific and research projects – most of which are highly confidential! So, if you have a project where accurate force or strain measurement is vital, but are not sure if load cells can provide the data you need, call us. We’ll be happy to talk through your requirements and suggest some solutions.