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Foot Windlass Mechanics

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by Brian A. Rothbart, Jan 30, 2023.

  1. Brian A. Rothbart

    Brian A. Rothbart Well-Known Member

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    Windlass mechanics is an engineering principle used in moving heavy loads. In yachting, the windlass is that lever system sued to pull in the sails. In a well, it is the pulley system used to lower and raise the bucket. However, it is also important in foot mechanics.

    The Foot Windlass Mechanism, described by Hicks (1954), is the tightening action of the long plantar fascia (aponeurosis) which allows the foot to maintain arch stability when the heel comes off the ground during late stance phase of gait. (See Toe Raise Test below)

    Without the windlass function, the inner longitudinal arch of the foot would collapse at heel lift preventing the foot from acting as an efficient lever during push off.

    The Windlass effect can be demonstrated by drawing the hallux upwards.
    • The plantarflexion of the hallux (the lever) winds up the long plantar fascia (the cable) around the 1st metatarsal head (the drum). This winding action develops tension in the long plantar fascia.
    • This increase tension in the long plantar fascia produces a rigid inner longitudinal arch by "packing in" the medial column joints (talonavicular, navicular-cuneiform, cuneiform-1st metatarsal and 1st metatarsal phalangeal joints).

    This packing of the medial column joint is essential, as it maintains the foot as a rigid lever during the forward thrust of propulsion.

    "The windlass foot mechanism functions each time a step is taken. During the phase when the foot is rising of the toes, the toes are being extended by pressure against the floor. This new concept is that the arch-raising is not the result of action of the muscles but is a movement that must inevitably occur in every foot, even if dead or paralytic, every time the toes are extended." (Hicks 1954, page 29, Section V).

    Hicks JH 1954. The mechanics of the foot. II: The plantar aponeurosis and the arch. Journal Anatomy, 88:25-30.

    Note - once the heel is lifted off the ground, neither Hip nor Gravity Drive pronation control the motion within the foot.

    Attached Files:

  2. Brian A. Rothbart

    Brian A. Rothbart Well-Known Member

    Attached is an animation demonstrating the Windlass Foot Mechanics

  3. Rob Kidd

    Rob Kidd Well-Known Member

    While this is a very important piece of pedal mechanics, it is hardly new. Hicks, to the best of my knowledge first described this is 1954, the year of my zygote formation - I am 68 soon. I see nothing new in what you have said. If I was a current researcher, I would be looking and re-looking at the works of Bojsen-Moller and his low and high gear and its relationship to the manners (note plural) in which the aponeurosis works.
  4. Greg Quinn

    Greg Quinn Active Member

    Agreed Rob… and are these manners the same for all hypothesised ‘foot types’?
  5. Brian A. Rothbart

    Brian A. Rothbart Well-Known Member

    Specifically, why do you think Bojsen-Moller research is more salient in elucidating my research on Gravity Drive pronation than Hicks WLM?

    On Researchgate, 871 researchers have read my research on Gravity Drive pronation (linked to AIS) garnishing a Research Interest Score of 3.1 (as of 2/3/23).
  6. Rob Kidd

    Rob Kidd Well-Known Member

    I see we are back to self grandiosement again. I took your so-called PhD into work a few months ago to show our current bunch of graduate students and their supervisors; I will not trouble you with their comments.
  7. Brian A. Rothbart

    Brian A. Rothbart Well-Known Member

    Actually, presenting a novel approach in understanding oncogenesis in less than 40 pages was not easy.

    I would be very pleased to hear from your grad students and supervisors. Hearsay never impressed me.

    And Rob, "Those that can do, those that can't criticize." Just food for thought.
  8. scotfoot

    scotfoot Well-Known Member

    Out of interest, has you work on oncogenesis ever been referenced by anyone else?
  9. Brian A. Rothbart

    Brian A. Rothbart Well-Known Member

    Yes, my research has garnished interest. You can access this on Researchgate (Interest Research Score 1,4)
  10. scotfoot

    scotfoot Well-Known Member

    And you have replied "Yes"

    Fair enough . Could you provide a link to the paper or author that referenced your work on oncogenesis. Please note that I am presently only interested in your work on oncogenesis.
  11. Brian A. Rothbart

    Brian A. Rothbart Well-Known Member

    The interest in my research on the aetiology of RFS and PCFD is actually higher than what I previously wrote. My paper is on two sites, the second site on Researchgate has garnished 16 reads with a RIS of 0.2. Adding that to the first site that this paper is available brings the total to 62 reads and a RIS of 1.6.

    As I have mentioned before, in the European orthopaedic community, a plethora of papers have been published on what is termed the Progressive Collapsing Foot Deformity. Several of the authors on this foot deformity have shown interest in my embryology research because it provides a basis of understanding the Progressive Collapsing Foot Deformity which is just another term for PCFD.

    Your inquiries are becoming somewhat off track. This thread's subject is the Windlass Foot Mechanism. I noticed you have breached this subject on two separate threads (2019 and 2021). Obviously, you have a lot to say, so let's stay on track.

    If you want to discuss my research on oncogenesis or ontogenesis, start a thread specifically on that subject.
  12. scotfoot

    scotfoot Well-Known Member

    So "no" then ?
  13. scotfoot

    scotfoot Well-Known Member

    Re progressive collapsing foot deformity -

    A comprehensive exercise program improves foot alignment in people with flexible flat foot: a randomised trial

    open access


    In people with flexible flat foot, what is the effect of a comprehensive exercise program on navicular drop height and medial longitudinal arch angle compared with a control regimen of brief active range of motion exercises?

    Randomised controlled trial with concealed allocation, blinding of assessors and intention-to-treat analysis.

    Fifty-two people with flexible flat foot.

    The experimental group undertook 30-minute exercise sessions three times per week for 6 weeks. The exercises involved active dorsiflexion and plantarflexion, foot shortening exercises, gluteal muscle strengthening, and stretching. The control group performed active dorsiflexion and plantarflexion only for 6 weeks.
    Outcome measures

    Navicular drop height and longitudinal arch angle.

    Randomisation allocated 26 participants to each group. One participant from the experimental group and two from the control group did not complete the study. After 6 weeks, the participants in the experimental group improved their navicular drop height by 0.4 cm (95% CI 0.4 to 0.5) more than those in the control group. These participants also improved their longitudinal arch angle by 16 deg (95% CI 13 to 19) more than those in the control group.

    In people with flexible flat foot, a comprehensive 6-week exercise program improved the navicular drop height and longitudinal arch angle more than active dorsiflexion and plantarflexion alone. This improved the cosmetic appearance of the foot and reduced progression towards more severe flat foot, which typically becomes symptomatic.
  14. Brian A. Rothbart

    Brian A. Rothbart Well-Known Member

    Why are you posting the above study on this thread?
  15. Brian A. Rothbart

    Brian A. Rothbart Well-Known Member

    Bojsen-Moller concept of low gear and high gear dovetails into Hicks, Zilzelspergers and my research. Namely, if the linear progression of the body weight travels through the 2nd metatarsal at heel lift (e.g., which occurs in Gravity Drive Pronation), the WFM does not engage (the aponeurosis does not tighten). I believe BM describe this as Low Gear.

    However, if the body's weight travels linearly through the 1st metatarsal at heel lift (which occurs in Hip Drive Pronation), the WFM does engage (the aponeurosis has tightened). I believe BM refer to this as High Gear.

    Zitzelsperger provides a detail discussion on how this all works, looking specifically at the STJ's two axes of rotation, unlocking and locking the forefoot. When the axes are parallel (as occurs in Gravity Drive Pronation), the forefoot remains a loose bag of bones and the WFM does not engage. When the axes are crossed (as occurs in Hip Drive Pronation), the forefoot becomes a rigid level and the WFM engages. Revisit that research, it might enlighten your viewpoint.

    Different nomenclature, all the same stuff.

    I understand you may not be conversant with the above because most (if not all) of your research was in another discipline.

    Just food for thought, enjoy your day.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2023
  16. Rob Kidd

    Rob Kidd Well-Known Member

    I choose not to get involved in this. My research has been in several disciplines.
  17. Brian A. Rothbart

    Brian A. Rothbart Well-Known Member


    I have read several thought-provoking archaeological papers you have co-authored with great interest. And have suggested (on a forum in Researchgate) that calcaneal supinatus might be the marker to trace the homo Sapien lineage.

    If you have published any Podiatric research studies (new concepts, not previously presented), I would be very interested in reading them. The only ones that I have read were on forefoot varum and rearfoot supinatus, questioning their existence.
  18. Rob Kidd

    Rob Kidd Well-Known Member

    You may wish to look at these rather ancient studies. Dr Duffin was a PhD student of mine a fair time ago and is a podiatrist; Rosalind Kidd was a podiatrist, specialising in high risk feet.

    Duffin A.C., Kidd R.S. Chan A.K. and Donaghue K.C. 2003. High Plantar Pressure and Callus in Diabetic Adolescents. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association 93: 214-20.

    Duffin A.C., Lam A., Kidd R.S., Chan A.K. and Donaghue K.C. 2002. Ultrasonography of Plantar soft tissue thickness in young people with diabetes. Diabetic Medicine 19: 1009-13.

    Kidd R.M and Kidd R.S. 1993 The role of abnormal collagen synthesis in the pathomechanics of the diabetic foot: a revaluation of the paradigm of neuropathy in podiatric practice. Australian Podiatrist. 27: 97-101.
  19. Brian A. Rothbart

    Brian A. Rothbart Well-Known Member

    Other than the two papers on forefoot varum and supinatus, have you published any pedal research on pathomechanics? If so, I would be very interested in reading them.
  20. Greg Quinn

    Greg Quinn Active Member

    As someone who has benefitted from Rob’s undergraduate teaching at Manchester Foot Hospital in the early 1980’s and anthropological publications since, I can honestly say he has been instrumental in my understanding of the ‘real’ science that underpins understanding of the historical form/function debate of foot biomechanics.
    If Podiatry wants biomechanics to be considered as a legitimate scientific discipline it has to be inclusive rather than only looking in its own back yard for evidence.
    P.S. Roz Kidd (a former colleague of mine) is also an excellent clinician whose research findings in altered mechanobiology in diabetic neuropathy is worthy of note in considering altered mechanotransduction in the neuropathic foot.
  21. Brian A. Rothbart

    Brian A. Rothbart Well-Known Member

    My research in pedal mechanics has been exclusively on its' impact on posture (foot to jaw), which I feel has expanded our vision (as you suggested). And in my humble opinion, the current research in biomechanics is a well-respected and accessed body of knowledge.

    Dr Kidd's archaeological publications (with his cohorts) have been illuminating. What caught my attention was his work in tracing the homo Sapien lineage.
  22. Rob Kidd

    Rob Kidd Well-Known Member

    "Archaeological" is a description of my work used only by you. My very modest contribution has been decidedly anthropological (which is not the same thing, though my very slightly overlap). I have never worked or published on any description of the Homo sapien lineage per se. If I had to use one phrase that underpins my work it would be "Biology, form, function and phylogeny". What I have said, when the circumstance required it is this: "there is no evidence that any of the specimens in the fossil record are direct ancestors or antecedents of any other".
  23. Brian A. Rothbart

    Brian A. Rothbart Well-Known Member

    Thank you for the above clarification. As you can readily tell, I am not an expert in your field.

    I used the word archaeological in referring to the skeletal bones, in the fossil record, uncovered and examined. As you stated, anthropological is a more accurate term to use in describing your work.

    I thought (?) you were one of the authors in a paper in a dig that uncovered a calcaneus with a remarkable posterior supinatus (which is the marker for the PCFD). This piqued my interest in that I thought it could be used as a marker to trace the Hs lineage. This was discussed with some interest in the ResearchGate forum (See - Do you think the structural twist in the posterior aspect of the calcaneus can be used to trace the hominin lineage?)

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