Monitoring natural human gait in real-life environments is essential in many applications, including quantification of disease progression, monitoring the effects of treatment, and monitoring alteration of performance biomarkers in professional sports. Nevertheless, developing reliable and practical techniques and technologies necessary for continuous real-life monitoring of gait is still an open challenge. A systematic review of English-language articles from scientific databases including Scopus, ScienceDirect, Pubmed, IEEE Xplore, EBSCO and MEDLINE were carried out to analyse the ‘accuracy’ and ‘practicality’ of the current techniques and technologies for quantitative measurement of the tri-axial walking ground reactions outside the laboratory environment, and to highlight their strengths and shortcomings. In total, 679 relevant abstracts were identified, 54 full-text papers were included in the paper and the quantitative results of 17 papers were used for meta-analysis and comparison. Three classes of methods were reviewed: (1) methods based on measured kinematic data; (2) methods based on measured plantar pressure; and (3) methods based on direct measurement of ground reactions. It was found that all three classes of methods have competitive accuracy levels with methods based on direct measurement of the ground reactions showing highest accuracy while being least practical for long-term real-life measurement. On the other hand, methods that estimate ground reactions using measured body kinematics show highest practicality of the three classes of methods reviewed. Among the most prominent technical and technological challenges are: (1) reducing the size and price of tri-axial load-cells; (2) improving the accuracy of orientation measurement using IMUs; (3) minimizing the number and optimizing the location of required IMUs for kinematic measurement; (4) increasing the durability of pressure insole sensors, and (5) enhancing the robustness and versatility of the ground reactions estimation methods to include pathological gaits and natural variability of gait in real-life physical environment.
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