Strength Type

In the Define Material Properties dialog, a wide variety of Strength Type models are available for modeling shear strength of the various materials of your Slide model. Each Strength Type requires various Strength Parameters as described below.


The most common way to model soil shear strength is with the Mohr-Coulomb equation:


s = shear strength

c’ = effective cohesion

= total normal stress

u = pore pressure

= effective angle of internal friction (phi)

The Mohr-Coulomb equation can be used for either total or effective stress conditions. For a total stress analysis, cohesion and friction angle are defined for total stress conditions. Pore water pressure is not considered, and the Mohr-Coulomb equation is simply:


For the Undrained soil model, the friction angle phi is automatically set to zero. The shear strength is defined only by the cohesion of the material. Three sub-options for defining the Undrained cohesion are available, by selecting from the Cohesion Type drop-down list:


Cohesion is constant throughout the material.

F(Depth from Top of Layer)

Cohesion is a function of depth, where depth is measured from the top of the material layer, to the center of a slice base.

F(Depth from Horizontal Datum)

Cohesion is a function of depth, where depth is measured from a user specified Datum (y-coordinate) to the center of a slice base.

Note that the Water Parameters are automatically disabled in the Define Materials dialog when Strength Type = Undrained, since pore water pressure is not required.

No Strength

The No Strength model is intended primarily to model ponded water. When you set the Strength Type = No Strength:


Ponded water modeled as a No Strength material

NOTE: in most cases, use of the No Strength material is NOT recommended. Ponded water can be modeled in Slide much more easily, by simply drawing a Water Table above the External Boundary. See the Add Water Table topic for details. The No Strength material may be useful in some cases, if you wish to customize the Unit Weight of Ponded Water (i.e. use a different unit weight from the Pore Fluid Unit Weight specified in Project Settings). Except for this situation, it is recommended that Ponded Water is modeled using a Water Table, rather than the No Strength material.

Infinite Strength

An Infinite Strength material in Slide represents a slip surface "exclusion zone", through which slip surfaces are not allowed to pass. Use an Infinite Strength material when you wish to define a region through which a failure surface cannot pass (e.g. a concrete retaining wall, or a heavily reinforced soil region).

For an Infinite Strength material:

Anisotropic Strength

The Anisotropic Strength model allows you to define Anisotropic strength properties for a soil or rock mass, by defining cohesion and friction angle along two perpendicular axes. The axes do NOT have to be oriented horizontally and vertically, but can be specified at an arbitrary angle as shown in the figure below. Required Strength Parameters are:


Definition of axes and angle for Anisotropic Strength model

The cohesion and friction angle for any arbitrary plane is given by:

where = angle between the plane and the 1-direction, as shown in the following figure:

The Anisotropic Strength model in Slide could also be referred to as "Transversely Isotropic" Strength.

Shear / Normal Function

The Shear / Normal Function model allows you to define an arbitrary shear / normal function, to define a non-linear Mohr-Coulomb strength envelope for a material.

When you set the Strength Type to Shear / Normal Function, the Shear / Normal Function drop-list will appear in the Strength Parameters area.

See the Shear / Normal Strength Function topic for details about defining Shear / Normal Strength Functions.

Anisotropic Function

The Anisotropic Function model is another method for defining Anisotropic strength properties for a soil or rock. With this model, you can define discrete angular ranges of slice base inclination, each with its own cohesion and friction angle.

When you set the Strength Type to Anisotropic Function, the Anisotropic Function drop-list will appear in the Strength Parameters area.

See the Anisotropic Strength Function topic for details about defining Anisotropic Strength Functions.


The Hoek-Brown strength criterion in Slide refers to the ORIGINAL Hoek-Brown failure criterion [ Hoek & Bray (1981) ], described by the following equation:


Note that this is a special case of the Generalized Hoek-Brown criterion, with the constant a = 0.5. See below for definition of the parameters in this equation.

The original Hoek-Brown criterion has been found to work well for most rocks of good to reasonable quality in which the rock mass strength is controlled by tightly interlocking angular rock pieces.

For lesser quality rock masses, the Generalized Hoek-Brown criterion can be used.

Generalized Hoek-Brown

The Generalized Hoek-Brown strength criterion is described by the following equation:


is a reduced value (for the rock mass) of the material constant (for the intact rock)

and are constants which depend upon the characteristics of the rock mass

is the uniaxial compressive strength (UCS) of the intact rock pieces

and are the axial and confining effective principal stresses respectively

See the Generalized Hoek-Brown topic for more information.

Vertical Stress Ratio

With the Vertical Stress Ratio model, the shear strength at the base of each slice is determined by multiplying the effective vertical (overburden) stress by a constant K for the material.


The Barton-Bandis strength model can be used to model the shear strength of a joint. The Barton-Bandis strength model establishes the shear strength of a failure plane as:

where is the residual friction angle of the failure surface [Barton and Choubey, 1977],

JRC is the joint roughness coefficient, and JCS is the joint wall compressive strength.

For further information on the shear strength of discontinuities, including a discussion of the Barton-Bandis failure criterion parameters, see Chapter 4 of Practical Rock Engineering by Dr. Evert Hoek, available on the Rocscience website.

Power Curve

The Power Curve model for shear-strength, can be expressed as:


Waviness Angle

Waviness is a parameter that can be included in calculations of the shear strength of a joint or failure plane. It accounts for the waviness (undulations) of the joint surface, observed over distances on the order of 1 m to 10 m. [ Miller (1988) ] The waviness angle is equal to the AVERAGE dip of a failure plane, minus the MINIMUM dip of the failure plane. A non-zero waviness angle, will always increase the effective shear strength of the failure plane.

If you are NOT modeling the strength of a joint, then you can simply set the waviness angle = 0, and this term in the Power Curve equation will NOT contribute to the shear strength.


A Hyperbolic shear strength envelope is defined by the following equation:

It is important to note the definition of the parameters and in the Hyperbolic shear strength equation. The following figure illustrates a hyperbolic shear strength envelope.


Hyperbolic shear strength envelope

Cohesion is defined as the shear strength at .

Friction angle is defined as the friction angle at .

NOTE the definitions of Cohesion and Friction Angle for the Hyperbolic shear strength model. The Cohesion for a Hyperbolic shear strength envelope is actually the limiting, maximum shear strength, for high normal stress.

The Hyperbolic shear strength model has been found to characterize the shear strength of soil / geo-synthetic interfaces, and other types of interfaces [ Esterhuizen, Filz & Duncan (2001) ]. For example, it could be used to model the shear strength of:

You may wish to use the Hyperbolic shear strength model, to model the failure mode of "direct sliding" along a GeoTextile / Soil interface. In this case, you will have to define a narrow layer of soil along the geotextile, and assign a material type which uses the Hyperbolic shear strength model.

Discrete Function

The Discrete Function option allows you to specify the shear strength at discrete x,y locations throughout a material. The shear strength at any point within the material, can then be interpolated. Shear strength may be specified for either the undrained case (cohesion only), or drained (cohesion and friction angle).

When you set the Strength Type to Discrete Function, the Discrete Function drop-list will appear in the Strength Parameters area.

See the Discrete Strength Function topic for details about defining Discrete Strength Functions.


The Drained-Undrained option allows you to define a soil strength envelope which considers both drained and undrained Mohr-Coulomb strength parameters. The shear strength is defined in terms of effective stress parameters c’ and phi’, up to a maximum value of shear strength defined by the undrained cohesion Cu.

If you only need to define constant strength parameters which do NOT vary with depth, then you can enter the parameters directly in the Define Materials dialog. In this case, the shear strength envelope is defined by constant values of:

Cohesion Varies with Depth

If the cohesion is variable with depth, then you must select the Cohesion varies with depth checkbox. This will enable the Define button. Select the Define button, and you will see another dialog (the Drained-Undrained Strength Properties dialog), in which you can define the drained and / or undrained cohesion as a function of depth.

See the Drained-Undrained Strength topic for more information.

Anisotropic Linear

The Anisotropic Linear strength model (Snowden, 2007), is similar to the Anisotropic Strength model described above. It allows you to define a material with the following anisotropic strength characteristics:

See the Anisotropic Linear Strength Function topic for details.

Generalized Anisotropic

The Generalized Anisotropic Strength option allows you to create a composite strength model, in which you can assign any strength model in Slide, to any range of slice base orientations. For example, you could create a material with Hoek-Brown properties over a range of orientations, and Mohr-Coulomb properties over another range of orientations (e.g. to simulate a weak bedding orientation in a rock mass).

See the Generalized Anisotropic topic for details.

Snowden Modified Anisotropic Linear

The Snowden Modified Anisotropic Linear strength model (Snowden, 2011) is based on the Anisotropic Linear strength model, with the following additions:

See the Snowden Modified Anisotropic Linear topic for details.


The SHANSEP model (Stress History and Normalized Soil Engineering Properties) is widely used for modeling undrained shear strength of soils (Ladd and Foote, 1974).

See the SHANSEP strength topic for details.