On July 30 – August 3, 2023, Queen’s Mechanical Engineering student, Quinn Yetman traveled to Fukuoka, Japan for the Congress of International Society of Biomechanics (ISB) to present his research on foot and ankle mechanics and motion. This is one of largest conferences for the biomechanics community with around 2000 attendees from countries around the world.

Yetman’s outstanding oral presentation earned him the prestigious David Winter Young Investigator Award. This accolade recognizes the top poster and oral presentations at the ISB conference, with five finalists in each category. It stands as one of the highest distinctions attainable for students in the field of biomechanics.

Quinn Yetman at a podium delivering his presentation

Photo caption (above): Yetman delivers his presentation at ISB.

His presentation challenged established notions about power generation in the foot during walking and running. This holds significant implications for innovations in shoe design and injury prevention. He elucidated, “The work I presented at the conference revises how we think of the power produced by the foot during walking and running. It was previously thought that the foot produced power to directly propel the body forwards, but my work shows that this power [actually moves] the ankle joint into a better configuration for upright gait. This knowledge can be applied to the design of footwear and lower limb prosthetics as we now have a better understanding of what the foot is doing during locomotion.”

Yetman explained that conference had the added benefit of increasing his research exposure: “getting the opportunity to present to the entire conference during the awards session was a really cool experience and helped our work reach a wider audience.”

Yetman and fellow researchers have begun to bring their research beyond the lab to have real-world impact as they work with shoe companies to improve designs for elite runners.

Team of researchers in white coats discuss foot mechanics

Photo caption (above): A group of students in the Skeletal Observation Lab are pictured from left to right: Quinn Yetman (PhD Student), Aidan Shimizu (Co-author of work, Undergraduate Summer Student), Annabel Vrba (Undergraduate Summer Student), and Kaito Lee (Lab Technician)

When describing the importance of the David Winter Young Investigator Award, he was quick to recognize the help and support of his collaborators: “The work had been going on for over a year before I presented and involved collaboration with my advisor, Dr. Michael Rainbow, undergraduate student Aidan Shimizu, and Dr. Lauren Welte of University of Wisconsin – Madison, so it was amazing to get recognition for all of our hard work.”

Yetman is at the beginning of doctoral studies, having started in January 2023. Even in this short time Yetman’s research promises wide-ranging impact, catering to both average individuals and elite athletes: “My research looks at how the foot and ankle work together during walking and running. I’m interested in applying fundamental foot mechanics concepts to improve performance in running and footwear design as well as reducing the incidence of musculoskeletal injuries in the general population.”

Yetman further explains, “Historically, research on the foot has assumed it to be rigid during locomotion, however, recent work has shown the mobility of the foot is important for putting the ankle into configuration that allows for upright gait. My work is delving deeper into this coupling and what causes/allows for it.”

Quinn Yetman at a podium delivering a presentation with a part of the slideshow visible as well as a large wooden stage

Photo caption (above): Yetman delivers his presentation at ISB.

His award-winning presentation in Japan debunked this long-standing misunderstanding of foot mechanics by explaining, “the power produced by the foot puts the ankle joint into a better position for upright gait instead of propelling the body forwards.” Leveraging his mathematical background from his Queen’s Bachelor’s of Applied Mathematics and Engineering, Yetman employed a model to dissect isolated foot movements and their influence on power generation.

His research has also landed him other awards and continues to have potential real-world impact. Yetman was awarded the First Place Biomedical Poster at Smith Engineering Research Networking Day (Q-ERND) for his combined rigid body, finite element model of the ankle joint complex which will allow us to see how different soft tissues in the ankle transfer forces from the foot to the lower limb. This model is still in development; however, Yetman explains that it will enable researchers to identify the structures that put the ankle into the position required for upright gait.

Quinn Yetman poses on stage with Elizabeth Clarke and award

Photo caption (above): Quinn Yetman with Elizabeth Clarke (President-Elect of ISB, University of Sydney) at the Congress of International Society of Biomechanics, receiving the David Winter Young Investigator Award.

Further to this impact, the team of researchers at the Skeletal Observation Lab and Yetman are delving into the energy dynamics of "super shoes" featuring thick midsoles and carbon fiber plates designed to support elite marathon runners aiming to break the 2-hour barrier. Overall, this work sheds light on the ankle-foot complex behavior during high-speed running.

The future of footwear innovation is bright with students like Quinn Yetman bringing his award-winning research to the international stage at the Congress of International Society of Biomechanics in Japan.  His recognition with the David Winter Young Investigator Award highlights not only his skill in oral presentation, but also the high caliber of research that he is producing. We look forward to seeing how Quinn Yetman’s research continues to revolutionize shoe and prosthetic design, improve injury prevention, and contribute to the field of biomechanics.


This article is relevant to the following Strategic Actions as defined in the Strategic Plan:

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