Gait is the terminology used to describe the way human locomotion takes place, or else to describe the way we walk or run. The walking gait is the specific process which involves the lower limbs at the time of a person walking. The description of the movements that takes place during the walk from the time of one heel touching the ground till it re-touches itself on the ground can be considered a ‘walking gait cycle’.
Steps in a walking gait cycle:
When considering the ‘walking gait cycle’, it can be divided into two phases. These are the phase in which foot is touching the ground or the ‘stance’ and the phase in which the limbs are moving through the air or the ‘swing’. In contrast to the gait during running motions, at least one foot is alternatively touches the ground in any given time during a walk. But, during the running gait, there is a phase in which both feet are not touching the ground and it is known as the ‘flight’ phase which do not exist in the walking gait.
In the walking gait, the stance can be re-classified into four phases which describes the landing and the taking off. In general, the first part of the foot to strike the ground would be the heel and it later achieves a foot flat stance. For a fraction of a second, depending on the speed of walking, the foot will remain flat in an event called the mid stance. Following this, the heel will take off again with the rest of the feet on the ground bearing the weight. Lastly, the toes will lift off, thus giving rise to the ‘swing’ phase of the cycle.
The ‘swing’ will also contain two phases with one being an accelerated phase towards the ‘mid swing phase’ and a deceleration phase towards the landing of the foot.
It should also be remembered that, in normal walking, the foot will be in the ‘stance’ phase for 60% of the time where as it will remain in the swing phase during the rest. Many factors including individual factors can affect a persons walking gait and therefore, the appearance and the time gaps can vary widely. In which ever form, the biomechanics involved in the gait cycles needs to coordinate between the muscles and the joints with the controlling signals being sent through the nervous system.
The appearance of a gait will give clues to a health care professional, a physician or a physical therapist, regarding any weaknesses and abnormalities. This would be useful in implementing treatment protocols to follow in correcting such abnormalities and weaknesses.