The net external energy of the biologic human ankle joint and of some lower limb prosthetic ankle-foot systems was examined during gait initiation. The purpose of the study was to better understand the ankle's behavior during the acceleration phase of walking for use in the design of improved lower limb prostheses and orthoses. Quantitative gait data were collected from 10 able-bodied subjects and 10 persons with unilateral transtibial amputations during gait initiation. The behaviors of the biologic and prosthetic 'ankle' joints were examined by analyzing the relationship between sagittal plane ankle angles and moments. Net external energy at the ankle was estimated by calculating the area under the moment versus angle curves (hysteresis) created during the loading and unloading phases. Results indicate that able-bodied persons utilize energy input from the trailing ankle after the first step is made in gait initiation, most likely to help transition the body into steady-state walking. The passive prosthetic ankle-foot systems tested were unable to put energy into the system during gait initiation.