Changes in the gait pattern across the lifespan

Development of the mature gait pattern

Sources EMG patterns Other motor landmarks

Most children walk independently between 11 and 15 months of age.

Mature gait pattern appears by age three, through the interaction of changes in several systems:

Determinants of mature gait (according to Sutherland)
  1. Duration of single limb stance: increases from 32% at one year
    to mature pattern of 38 percent by 4 years.

  2. Step length increases not just with age and increased leg length, but when corrected for stature.

    Young children gradually use more of the available hip flexion range and take longer steps.

    The increase in step length produces an increase in the percentage of the gait cycle spent in single limb stance.

  3. Cadence decreases with age.

  4. Velocity increase rapidly up to age of 3 1/2, then more slowly.

  5. "Base of support" defined operationally as ratio between pelvic span at ASIS and the "ankle spread" or distance between ankle joint centers. This ratio increases linearly (reflecting a narrowing of the base) until 4 years, but may be confounded early by wearing of diapers.

"By 4 years the inter-relationships between the time/distance parameters are fixed, though stride length and walking velocity continue to increase with increasing leg length" (Sutherland, Olshen, Biden, & Wyatt, 1988, p.64).

Observational determinants

Between 1 and 3 years, certain "observational determinants" appear in a child's gait pattern:

The one-year-old:

The two-year-old demonstrates several observational determinants:

Changes in the gait pattern as people grow older

according to Murray, Kory, & Clarkson (1969):

according to Winter, Patla, Frank, & Walt (1980):

according to Judge, Ounpuu, & Davis (1996):

according to Blanke and Hageman (1989):

Sources: Changes in the gait pattern across the lifespan

Last updated 3-19-02 ©Dave Thompson PT