Kinematic strategies for walking across a destabilizing rock surface

Deanna H. Gates, Jason M. Wilken, Shawn J. Scott, Emily H. Sinitski, Jonathan B. Dingwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


It is important to understand how people adapt their gait when walking in real-world conditions with variable surface characteristics. This study quantified lower-extremity joint kinematics, estimated whole body center of mass height (COM VT), and minimum toe clearance (MTC) while 15 healthy, young subjects walked on level ground (LG) and a destabilizing loose rock surface (RS) at four controlled speeds. There were no significant differences in average step parameters (length, time, or width) between the walking surfaces. However, the variability of these parameters increased twofold on the RS compared to LG. When walking on the RS, subjects contacted the surface with a flatter foot and increased knee and hip flexion, which enabled them to lower COM VT. Subjects exhibited increased hip and knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion during swing on the RS. These changes contributed to a 3.8 times greater MTC on the RS compared to LG. Peak hip and knee flexion during early stance and swing increased with walking speed, contributing to decreased COM VT and increased MTC. Overall, subjects systematically adapted their movement kinematics to overcome the challenge imposed by the destabilizing loose rock surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-42
Number of pages7
JournalGait and Posture
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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