The effect of foot posture on capacity to apply free moments to the ground: implications for fighting performance in great apes
In contrast to most other primates, great apes have feet in which the heel supports body weight during standing, walking and running. One possible advantage of this plantigrade foot posture is that it may enhance fighting performance by increasing the ability to apply free moments (i.e. force couples) to the ground. We tested this possibility by measuring performance of human subjects when performing from plantigrade and digitigrade (standing on the ball of the foot and toes) postures. We found that plantigrade posture substantially increased the capacity to apply free moments to the ground and to perform a variety of behaviors that are likely to be important to fighting performance in great apes. As predicted, performance in maximal effort lateral striking and pushing was strongly correlated with free moment magnitude. All else being equal, these results suggest species that can adopt plantigrade posture will be able to apply larger free moments to the ground than species restricted to digitigrade or unguligrade foot posture. Additionally, these results are consistent with the suggestion that selection for physical competition may have been one of the factors that led to the evolution of the derived plantigrade foot posture of great apes.