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What Is the Biomechanics of Walking?

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  • Written By: Sandra Koehler
  • Edited By: Rachel Catherine Allen
  • Images By: n/a, Photographee.eu, Syda Productions, Jacek Chabraszewski, Razihusin
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2016
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Walking is the primary way to propel the body in a particular direction. It is a multifaceted series of specific movements, called the gait pattern that incorporates almost every part of the body working in unison. The scientific study of how the body moves to change its location is called the biomechanics of walking. In order to understand the biomechanics of walking, a basic knowledge of each phase of the gait sequence is required.

The biomechanics of walking is divided into two stages that occur simultaneously: the stance phase and the swing phase. The stance phase starts with something called a heel strike, which occurs when one heel hits the ground. When this happens, this leg becomes the stabilizer of the body. It does not, however remain stationary. During stance phase the walker's body weight shifts from the heel through the foot to the toes. This stage is an important aspect in the biomechanics of walking because it alters the position of the body and prepares it to move from one location to another.

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To actually move or propel the body to a different spot, the other leg needs to move in front of the stabilizer leg. This phase in the biomechanics of walking is called the swing phase. The swing phase begins at the end of the stance phase as the weight of the body is shifted to the toes. The body then pushes the weight off the balls of the toes and swings the leg forward until the heel makes contact with the ground. At the heel strike, the bulk of the body weight is transferred to the forward leg.

During the gait cycle, weight shifts and specific movements of the hips and torso are required to successfully change the position of the body. For example, in the biomechanics of walking, the hip of the stance leg needs to shift slightly forward in anticipation of a positional change. The ability to move the bulk of the weight back and forth over the legs as both legs are in motion is necessary to maintain balance and successfully propel the body forward.

The arms also play a role in the biomechanics of walking. By swinging the arm opposite of the swinging leg, or swinging the right arm as the left leg swings forward for example, the body can adapt to weight shifts more easily to prevent a loss of balance. Incorporating arm movements also adds power to forward mobility through momentum allowing the body to use less energy when walking.

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