Using inertial measurement units to identify medio-lateral ground reaction forces due to walking and swaying

James Brownjohn, J Chen, Mateusz Bocian, Vitomir Racic, Erfan Shahabpoor Ardakani

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Horizontal ground reaction forces (GRFs) due to human walking and swaying have been investigated (respectively) through direct measurements using a treadmill and a set of force plates. These GRFs have also been measured (or estimated) indirectly using acceleration data provided by inertial measurement units (IMUs). One motivation for this research has been the lack of published data on these two forms of loading that are generated by movements of the human body in the medio-lateral plane perpendicular to the direction of walking or the direction faced during swaying. The other motivation, following from successful developments in applying IMUs to in-situ vertical GRF measurements, has been to identify best practice for estimating medio-lateral GRFs outside the constraints of a laboratory. Examination of 852 treadmill measurements shows that medio-lateral GRFs at the first sub-harmonic of pacing rate can exceed 10% of body weight. Using a smaller and more recent set of measurements including motion capture, it has been shown that IMUs can be used to reconstruct these GRFs using a linear combination of body accelerations at each of the lower back and sternum positions. There are a number of potential applications for this capability yet to be explored, in particular relating to footbridge performance. A separate set of measurements using force plates has shown that harmonic components of medio-lateral dynamic load factors due to on the spot swaying can approach 50% of body weight. Such forces provide a capability to excite horizontal vibration modes of large civil structures with frequencies below 2 Hz that are problematic for mechanical excitation. As with walking, the ability to use IMUs to estimate medio-lateral swaying GRFs outside laboratory constraints has been demonstrated. As for walking a pair of IMUs is needed, but the best linear combination varies strongly between individuals, according to swaying style. In-situ application of indirect measurement has been successfully demonstrated through a very challenging application of system identification of a multi-storey building, including estimation of modal mass.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-110
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Sound and Vibration
Early online date24 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2018


  • Force plate
  • Ground reaction force
  • Inertial measurement unit
  • Swaying
  • System identification
  • Treadmill
  • Vibration testing
  • Walking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Mechanical Engineering


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