# Friction when walking

To meet a U.S. Postal Service requirement, employees’ footwear must have a coefficient of static friction of 0.5 or more on a specified tile surface. A typical athletic shoe has a coefficient of static friction of 0.800. In an emergency, what is the minimum time interval in which a person starting from rest can move 3.00 m on the tile surface if she is wearing (a) footwear meeting the Postal Service minimum and (b) a typical athletic shoe?

I know how to do this, but I do not quite understand the theoretical aspects involved in it.

Why is the static force acting on the friction force during walking? How, at every step, does it act by allowing movement?

Why is the static force acting on the friction force during walking? How, at every step, does it act by allowing movement?

When we walk or run we apply a pushing force against the ground. The ground applies an equal and opposite reaction force on us. See the free body diagram of a runner below. It applies as well to a walker.

The ground reaction force on the person is resolved into the static friction force parallel to the surface and the reaction force normal to the surface. During portions of walking or running the normal reaction force is greater than the gravitational force on the person in order to lift the person off the ground.

The static friction force that the ground applies to the person propels the person forward, and is equal and opposite to the parallel force the person applies to the ground. If there were no static friction force the person will slip. Note that if the parallel component of the per pushing force on the ground exceeds the maximum possible static friction force, the person slips.

The difference between the person shown running and a person walking is the angle $$θ$$ is greater for the walker. When the person is standing still ($$θ=90^0$$) and the only forces are the persons weight and the equal and opposite normal force on the ground. There is no pushing force for friction to oppose, and so therefore no friction.

Hope this helps.

• Friction opposes relative motion but in this case it seems to be the cause of relative motion between ground and man? May 14, 2023 at 19:59
• Friction opposes the force of the foot pushing back on the ground per Newton’s third law preventing the foot from slipping thus enabling acceleration forward May 14, 2023 at 20:59
• One last thing, why is there a heat loss if work done by pushing the ground back is equal to energy provided to us by friction? May 15, 2023 at 20:20
• @Aurelius What makes you think there is heat loss? Heat loss only occurs with kinetic (sliding) friction which, in turn, only occurs if the maximum possible static friction force is exceeded and the foot begins to slip. May 15, 2023 at 20:46
• Meaning if we walk at a certain pace we can theoretically avoid wear and tear of soles? May 15, 2023 at 20:48

We walk by pushing the ground backwards. At each step, we tend to push the ground backwards by our feet. There is tendency of our feet slipping backwards. In that case, friction comes into play. If enough to prevent slipping, static friction acts in forward direction on our feet, enabling us to move forward. Just imagine if there was no friction. We would never been able to 'walk'(maybe hopping like kangaroos would help!). You might have observed walking over a slippery surface gives difficulty (friction is not completely zero). A fast runner( or an athlete) has more chances of slipping, hence requires more static friction. If static friction is not enough, friction would change to kinetic thereby, causing slipping, (and even rubbing of soles! )

Now, coming to your problem. It will further clarify things:

When we talk about minimum time interval, we mean walking fast as possible, so highest tendency of slipping. So we have to consider the limiting value of static friction in the problem. So, we know the acceleration of person($$a=\frac F m =\frac {\mu mg}{m}=\mu g$$). We can calculate the time interval.

The force on the person in the horizontal forward direction is provided by the frictional force due to the ground $$F$$.
Assuming that there is no slipping between the shoe and the ground, the maximum magnitude of this frictional force is $$F=\mu_{\rm static} W$$ where $$W$$ is the weight of the person.