Predictive simulations identify potential neuromuscular contributors to idiopathic toe walking

Kirsten Veerkamp, Marjolein M. van der Krogt, Niels F. J. Waterval, Thomas Geijtenbeek, H. P. John Walsh, Jaap Harlaar, Annemieke I. Buizer, David G. Lloyd, Christopher P. Carty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Most cases of toe walking in children are idiopathic. We used pathology-specific neuromusculoskeletal predictive simulations to identify potential underlying neural and muscular mechanisms contributing to idiopathic toe walking. Methods: A musculotendon contracture was added to the ankle plantarflexors of a generic musculoskeletal model to represent a pathology-specific contracture model, matching the reduced ankle dorsiflexion range-of-motion in a cohort of children with idiopathic toe walking. This model was employed in a forward dynamic simulation controlled by reflexes and supraspinal drive, governed by a multi-objective cost function to predict gait patterns with the contracture model. We validated the predicted gait using experimental gait data from children with idiopathic toe walking with ankle contracture, by calculating the root mean square errors averaged over all biomechanical variables. Findings: A predictive simulation with the pathology-specific model with contracture approached experimental ITW data (root mean square error = 1.37SD). Gastrocnemius activation was doubled from typical gait simulations, but lacked a peak in early stance as present in electromyography. This synthesised idiopathic toe walking was more costly for all cost function criteria than typical gait simulation. Also, it employed a different neural control strategy, with increased length- and velocity-based reflex gains to the plantarflexors in early stance and swing than typical gait simulations. Interpretation: The simulations provide insights into how a musculotendon contracture combined with altered neural control could contribute to idiopathic toe walking. Insights into these neuromuscular mechanisms could guide future computational and experimental studies to gain improved insight into the cause of idiopathic toe walking.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106152
Pages (from-to)106152
JournalClinical Biomechanics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024


  • Forward dynamics
  • Neural control
  • Neuromusculoskeletal modelling
  • OpenSim
  • Paediatrics

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