Humans control stride-to-stride stepping movements differently for walking and running, independent of speed

Jonathan B. Dingwell, Nicole K. Bohnsack-McLagan, Joseph P. Cusumano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


As humans walk or run, external (environmental) and internal (physiological) disturbances induce variability. How humans regulate this variability from stride-to-stride can be critical to maintaining balance. One cannot infer what is “controlled” based on analyses of variability alone. Assessing control requires quantifying how deviations are corrected across consecutive movements. Here, we assessed walking and running, each at two speeds. We hypothesized differences in speed would drive changes in variability, while adopting different gaits would drive changes in how people regulated stepping. Ten healthy adults walked/ran on a treadmill under four conditions: walk or run at comfortable speed, and walk or run at their predicted walk-to-run transition speed. Time series of relevant stride parameters were analyzed to quantify variability and stride-to-stride error-correction dynamics within a Goal-Equivalent Manifold (GEM) framework. In all conditions, participants’ stride-to-stride control respected a constant-speed GEM strategy. At each consecutively faster speed, variability tangent to the GEM increased (p ≤ 0.031), while variability perpendicular to the GEM decreased (p ≤ 0.044). There were no differences (p ≥ 0.999) between gaits at the transition speed. Differences in speed determined how stepping variability was structured, independent of gait, confirming our first hypothesis. For running versus walking, measures of GEM-relevant statistical persistence were significantly less (p ≤ 0.004), but showed minimal-to-no speed differences (0.069 ≤ p ≤ 0.718). When running, people corrected deviations both more quickly and more directly, each indicating tighter control. Thus, differences in gait determined how stride-to-stride fluctuations were regulated, independent of speed, confirming our second hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-151
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
StatePublished - Jul 25 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Rehabilitation


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