Evidence of isometric function of the flexor hallucis longus muscle in normal gait

Y. M. Kirane, J. D. Michelson, N. A. Sharkey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Studying mechanics of the muscles spanning multiple joints provides insights into intersegmental dynamics and movement coordination. Multiarticular muscles are thought to function at "near-isometric" lengths to transfer mechanical energy between the adjacent body segments. Flexor hallucis longus (FHL) is a multiarticular flexor of the great toe; however, its potential isometric function has received little attention. We used a robotic loading apparatus to investigate FHL mechanics during simulated walking in cadaver feet, and hypothesized that physiological force transmission across the foot can occur with isometric FHL function. The extrinsic foot tendons, stripped of the muscle fibers, were connected to computer-controlled linear actuators. The FHL activity was controlled using force-feedback (FC) based upon electromyographic data from healthy subjects, and subsequently, isometric positional feedback (PC), maintaining the FHL myotendinous junction stationary during simulated walking. Tendon forces and excursions were recorded, as were the strains within the first metatarsal. Forces in the metatarsal and metatarsophalangeal joint were derived from these strains. The FHL tendon excursion under FC was 6.57±3.13 mm. The forces generated in the FHL tendon, metatarsal and metatarsophalangeal joint with the FHL under isometric PC were not significantly different in pattern from FC. These observations provide evidence that physiological forces could be generated along the great toe with isometric FHL function. A length servo mechanism such as the stretch reflex could likely control the isometric FHL function during in vivo locomotion; this could have interesting implications regarding the conditions of impaired stretch reflex such as spastic paresis and peripheral neuropathies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1919-1928
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Rehabilitation
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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