What is a Walking Gait?

Jacob Queen

A walking gait is the process people and animals use to move themselves at a moderate pace. For people, it generally involves a step and then a swing as weight shifts, followed by another step. This process is rhythmic in nature, and during each swing, momentum is built that is generally transferred into the next swing for the sake of efficiency. During the entire process, it is important that the individual maintain his balance and an ability to react quickly to any surprises. A walking gait will often change depending on how fast a person is moving.

Woman walking.
Woman walking.

Many things can potentially go wrong with a walking gait. For example,people might lose their balance or transfer their weight in the wrong way. A limp is a very common example of a flawed walking gait, which is caused by an injury. There are other walking gait problems as well. For example, people may not flex their joints enough to absorb impact properly, or they might lean in one direction slightly while walking.

A pedometer for walking.
A pedometer for walking.

If a person has a poor gait, he may be potentially endangering himself. It is very possible for people to damage their joints by walking incorrectly, and it’s common for people to hurt their backs or strain muscles in other areas of the body because of the way they walk. A bad gait can also hurt a person’s balance, and this can lead to falls, which may cause severe injuries anywhere on the body.

Sometimes children are born with walking gait problems or develop them at some point during the period when they are learning to walk. Usually, experts recommend letting these problems sort themselves out, and they generally discourage any kind of treatment. Some problems can be a sign of a more severe issue, and in those cases, doctors may use physical therapy or corrective shoes. Some common gait problems that children demonstrate include cases where the toes are pointing either inward or outward, and usually these aren’t considered real problems by doctors.

When people develop walking gait problems as adults, it is sometimes a sign of something more dangerous. Most problems with walking gait are generally based on less serious things, like a sore foot or a torn muscle. Sometimes they can be related to neurological problems like stroke or various problems with maintaining balance. If someone suddenly develops an unexplained gait problem, this would generally be considered an emergency situation.

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