Reviewing the Exoskeleton Expansion for Improving Walking & Running Economy

Research Paper Title

The exoskeleton expansion: improving walking and running economy.


Since the early 2000s, researchers have been trying to develop lower-limb exoskeletons that augment human mobility by reducing the metabolic cost of walking and running versus without a device.

In 2013, researchers finally broke this ‘metabolic cost barrier’.

The analysed the literature through December 2019, and identified 23 studies that demonstrate exoskeleton designs that improved human walking and running economy beyond capable without a device.

Here, they reviewed these studies and highlighted key innovations and techniques that enabled these devices to surpass the metabolic cost barrier and steadily improve user walking and running economy from 2013 to nearly 2020.

These studies include:

  • Physiologically-informed targeting of lower-limb joints;
  • Use of off-board actuators to rapidly prototype exoskeleton controllers;
  • Mechatronic designs of both active and passive systems; and
  • A renewed focus on human-exoskeleton interface design.

Lastly, they highlight emerging trends that the researchers anticipate will further augment wearable-device performance and pose the next grand challenges facing exoskeleton technology for augmenting human mobility.


Sawicki, G.S., Beck, O.N., Kang, I. &, Young, A.J. (2020) The exoskeleton expansion: improving walking and running economy. Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation. 17(1):25. doi: 10.1186/s12984-020-00663-9.


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