Walking like a Pro; Understanding The Gait Cycle

I saw a TikTok challenge the other day where one person had to “walk while keeping one foot on the ground at all times.” The person, not knowing the basics of the gait cycle, proceeds to walk in a really strange way, contorting his body left and right to try to maintain one foot on the ground at a time….little do they know that the body naturally keeps one foot on the ground at a time while walking!

This TikTok challenge had me thinking about the gait cycle which is fancy talk for the way humans walk. The gait cycle is highly complex with many things occurring at any given time, however for simplicity, we are going to brake gait down into two main phases with each part having several subdivisions. The two main components of the gait cycle are stance phase and Swingphase. Firstly, Stance phase is when the foot is on the ground and swing phase is when the leg is off of the ground and moving towards the front of the body.

breaking down the gait cycle

Stance phase can be broken down into heel strike, loading response, mid-stance, terminal stance, and finally, pre-swing. For the remainder of this explanation, let’s assume we are talking about the same leg throughout the walking gait.

Here are definitions of each of these components:

1. Heel strike/Initial Contact – this is when the front foot strikes the ground. This is the initiation of the stance phase. Importantly, BOTH feet are on the ground at this point in the gait cycle.

2. Loading response – this is when the majority of your body weight is shifted to/placed on the stance leg. Usually the whole foot will be placed on the ground and the opposite leg should be lifting off if the ground at this point.

3. Mid-stance – when the stance leg is directly underneath the body.

4. Terminal stance- when the stance leg moves behind the midline of the body, and the heel begins to lift off. This may be when the opposite foot intimate heel strike.

5. Pre-swing – when the leg has little to no body weight placed on it but still remains contact with the ground.

With stance phase completed, the foot will complete something called toe off, which is when the lower leg pushes off of the ground and then enters into swing phase, which consists of initial swing, mid swing, and terminal swing.

1. Initial swing – when the leg lifts off of the ground directly following toe off. The leg will the. Begin to move towards the mid line of the body.

2. Mid swing – when the leg enters/passes through the mid line of the body and the lower leg begins to outstretch in front of the body.

3. Terminal swing – when the leg will be outstretched In front of the body, with the foot just about to enter into heel strike/ Initial contact with the ground.

With that, now you should have a basic understanding of gait! The human body is a massively complex thing, with many various mechanical actions occurring with every single movement. This includes walking as well! Many factors can affect walking, like age, sex, body variety, and even the shoes you wear, so having a basic understanding of gait can help you know your body a little bit better…and also help you not fall prey to Tiktok challenges.

Give us a call today if you want Hohman Rehab to check out your gait cycle!