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Keywords:

  • force–length relationship;
  • metatarsal phalangeal joint;
  • moment–angle relationship;
  • muscle strength

Abstract

The maximal force a muscle produces depends among others on the length of the muscle and therefore on the positions of the joints the muscle crosses. Long and short toe flexor muscles (TFM) cross the ankle joints and metatarsal phalangeal joints (MPJ) and work against gravity during human locomotion. The purpose of this study was to describe the maximal moments around the MPJ during maximal voluntary isometric contractions (MVIC) of the TFM as a function of ankle joint and MPJ position. Twenty men performed MVIC of the TFM in a custom-made dynamometer. Ankle and MPJ angles were modified after each contraction. External moments of force around the MPJ were determined. Moments ranged between 6.3 ± 2.6 Nm and 14.2 ± 5.8 Nm. Highest moments were produced at 0°–10° ankle joint dorsal flexion and 25°–45° MPJ dorsal flexion. Lowest moments were generated at 35° ankle joint plantar flexion and 0° MPJ dorsal flexion. In conclusion, if the ankle is plantar-flexed, dorsal flexion of the MPJ avoids a disadvantage of the force–length relationship of TFM. Therefore, MPJ dorsal flexion is a necessary function in the push-off phase of human locomotion to work against the loss of the mechanical output at the forefoot caused by plantar flexion of the ankle.