This week we will focus on the basics of gait and the gait cycle in our attempt to assist in gait literacy

Gait Cycle Basics: Part 1

Steps and strides….

What does the gait cycle that have to do with therapy or rehabilitation? Well, most people walk at some point in the day, and most have walked into your office. If people can’t carry the changes you made on the table and incorporate it into walking, then what you do will have limited effectiveness. Thus, the need for understanding the gait cycle as it relates to rehabilitation or how it can give you clues to the biomechanical faults present. An example is a loss of functional hip extension and chronic LBP/ SI dysfunction. This could be due to a myriad of reasons, from weak glutes, loss of ankle dorsiflexion, or even a dysfunctional shoulder. Understanding how these seemingly unrelated body parts integrate into the kinetic chain, especially while moving upright through the gravitational plane.


One gait cycle consists of the events from heel strike to heel strike on one side. A step length is the distance traveled from one heel strike to the next (on the opposite side). Comparing right to left step lengths can give the evaluator insight into the symmetry of the gait.  Differences in step length, on the simplest level, should cause the individual to deviate consistently from a straight line (technically it should cause the individual to eventually walk in a large circle!).  Often, compensations occur functionally in the lower kinetic chain to compensate for the differences in step length to ensure that you walk in a straight line.  It is these longstanding complex compensations that are the generators of many of our patient’s complaints.


A stride length is the distance from heel strike to heel strike on the ipsilateral side (the distance covered in one gait cycle.  Step width, or base of gait, is the lateral distance between the heel centers of two consecutive foot contacts (this typically measures 6-10 cm).  Foot progression angle is the angle of deviation of the long axis of the foot from the line of progression (typically 7-10 degrees). Çhanges in the progression angle can be due to both congenital (torsions, versions) as well as developmental reasons.

Next time we will take a closer look at the gait cycle itself. Yup, we are still…The Gait Guys

special thanks to Dr. Tom Michaud, who has allowed us to use these images in our book