Slower than normal walking speeds involve a pattern shift in joint and temporal coordination contributions

  • Virginia L. Little
  • Theresa E. McGuirk
  • Carolynn PattenEmail author
Research Article


Kinematic and spatiotemporal gait parameters are known to scale with gait speed, though inter-joint coordination during swing remains consistent, at least across comfortable speeds. The purpose of this study was to determine whether coordination patterns serving limb clearance and shortening change across a range of gait speeds. We assessed 17 healthy adults walking overground at their self-selected speed and multiple, progressively slower speeds. We collected lower extremity kinematics with 3D motion analysis and quantified joint influence, or relative joint contributions, to limb clearance and shortening. We investigated changes in coordination using linear mixed models to determine magnitude and timing differences of joint influence across walking speeds. Joint influences serving limb clearance (hip, knee, and ankle) reduced considerably with slower walking speeds. Similarly, knee and ankle influences on limb shortening reduced with slower walking speeds. Temporally, joint influences on limb clearance varied across walking speeds. Notably, the temporal order of peak hip and knee influences reversed below typical self-selected walking speeds. For limb shortening, the timing of knee and ankle influences occurred later in the gait cycle as walking speed decreased. While relative joint contributions serve limb clearance and shortening scale with walking speeds, our results demonstrate that temporal coordination of limb clearance is altered in healthy individuals as walking speed falls below the range of typical self-selected walking speeds.


Gait Coordination Limb clearance Limb shortening Joint influence 



This research was supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Rehabilitation Research & Development Service Research Career Scientist Award #N9274S (CP) and NIH T32 Neuromuscular Plasticity Training Grant (VLL; No. 5 T32 HD043730-08, K Vandenborne, PI). This material is the result of work supported with resources and the use of facilities at the NF/SG Veterans Administration Health Care System, Gainesville, FL, USA and the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, CA, USA. The contents do not represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Government. The funding source played no role in either writing this manuscript or the decision to submit for publication. The corresponding author retains full access to all data in the study and assumes final responsibility for the decision to submit for publication. We thank the following individuals: Ilse Jonkers, PhD for conduct of patient assessments; Eric L. Topp, MS for mathematical review; Drs. Sam Wu, BJ Fregly, and Mark Bishop for helpful comments on an early version of the manuscript, and the study participants for their time and cooperation. A portion of this work has been presented in abstract form at the annual meeting for the American Society for Biomechanics, August 2012 and Combined Sections Meeting (APTA), January 2013. This work was conducted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Ph.D. degree by Virginia L. Little.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biomechanics, Rehabilitation and Integrative Neuroscience (BRaIN) LabVA Northern California Health Care SystemMartinezUSA
  2. 2.Biomechanics, Rehabilitation and Integrative Neuroscience (BRaIN) LabPhysical Medicine and Rehabilitation, UC Davis School of MedicineSacramentoUSA

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