We study how and why the human body is the way it is in both the field and the laboratory. Much of our research focuses on physical activity and how it relates to human biology and health.
We study the biology and evolution of human physical activity by developing and testing biomechanical, physiological and developmental models. Important physical activities we focus on include (but are not limited to) walking, running, carrying, and chewing. We are especially interested in how these activites are relevant to human health and disease.
We study these activities literally from head to toe including: feet, knees, pelvis, spine, thorax, shoulders, arms and the head. We also study the physiology of physical activity including metabolism, growth and repair, and inflammation.
The methods we use integrate a variety of experimental techniques including high speed 3D kinematics, kinetics, electromyography, strain gauges, and respirometry. We also use numerous imaging methodologies including CT, ultrasound, MRI, and histology.
Current projects include:
The effects of shoes on the development and function of the foot
Biomechanics of walking and running
Biomechanics of ventilation during physical activity
How physical activity affects inflammation and metabolism
Upper body function during walking and running
Head stabilization during locomotion
The biomechanics of carrying, digging, throwing
The biomechanics of chewing
Many of the above research questions we ask are motivated by an interest in using evolutionary theory and data to find new, better ways to prevent and treat disease. These currently include:
Prevention of osteoarthritis
How variations in shoe design may help prevent flat feet (pes planus) as well as high-arched feet (pes cavus)
Preventing running injuries
Treating and preventing lower back pain
Preventing chronic inflammation and metabolic diseases
Preventing and treating oral health issues (e.g. dental crowding, malocclusion, periodontitis, and cavities)
Preventing hypertension and other forms of heart disease
Since 2009, we have been working in the Nandi Hills and Uasin Gishu Counties, Kenya, primarily in the city of Eldoret and in the rural community of Kobujoi. Working with the local community, we study differences between Kalenjin-speaking people who are traditional subsistence farmers and those who have post-industrial lifestyles. Research questions include differences between barefoot and shod running, the effects of shoes on foot structure and development, how physical activity and muscle strength affects the lumbar lordosis and other aspects of the body, and more. This research is in collaboration with researchers at Moi Medical School, including Prof. Robert Ojiambo and Dr. Paul Okutoyi.
The Tarahumara (Ràràmuri) are among the last Native American peoples who still practice subsistence farming. Since 2012, we have been studying their running biomechanics and we are also now studying musculoskeletal and cardiovascular aging in this population in collaboration with researchers at the Autonomous University of Chihuahua (Oscar Nuñez Enriquez, Ph.D.,Salvador Jesus Lopez, PhD), Massachusetts General Hospital (Dr. Aaron Baggish) and the University of British Columbia (Prof. Robert Shave), and with the assistance of Mickey Mahaffey and Silvino Cubesare.