Reappraisal of the comparative cost of human locomotion using gait-specific allometric analyses

Jonas Rubenson, Denham B. Heliams, Shane K. Maloney, Philip C. Withers, David G. Lloyd, Paul A. Fournier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


The alleged high net energy cost of running and low net energy cost of walking in humans have played an important role in the interpretation of the evolution of human bipedalism and the biomechanical determinants of the metabolic cost of locomotion. This study re-explores how the net metabolic energy cost of running and walking (J kg-1 m-1) in humans compares to that of animals of similar mass using new allometric analyses of previously published data. Firstly, this study shows that the use of the slope of the regression between the rate of energy expenditure and speed to calculate the net energy cost of locomotion overestimates the net cost of human running. Also, the net energy cost of human running is only 17% higher than that predicted based on their mass. This value is not exceptional given that over a quarter of the previously examined mammals and birds have a net energy cost of running that is 17% or more above their allometrically predicted value. Using a new allometric equation for the net energy cost of walking, this study also shows that human walking is 20% less expensive than predicted for their mass. Of the animals used to generate this equation, 25% have a relatively lower net cost of walking compared with their allometrically predicted value. This new walking allometric analysis also indicates that the scaling of the net energy cost of locomotion with body mass is gait dependent. In conclusion, the net costs of running and walking in humans are moderately different from those predicted from allometry and are not remarkable for an animal of its size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3513-3524
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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