Walking involves a coordinated effort of the feet, knees, and hips. The cycle of how a person walks is called the gait. The gait cycle is divided into two phases: the time a foot is on the ground is called the “stance” and makes up 60% of the cycle. The motion of the foot off of the ground is called the swing.
During the stance phase, there are four motions that involve the foot.
- heel strikes the ground
- entire foot comes in contact with the ground
- heel lifts placing weight on the ball of the foot
- big toe provides the propulsion for the lift and swing
The swing phase has two characteristics — acceleration into the swing and deceleration into placement of the heel for the next step.
All phases of the gait cycle can be evaluated by a physical therapist or podiatrist to determine if there are problems with the musculoskeletal or neurological systems. Some gait issues are caused by injury, such as a stroke, or by a disease. People with gait problems need plenty of time for walking because their balance is challenged and may benefit from assistive devices like canes and walkers to prevent falls.