Gait is a person's manner of walking. Humans have bipedal walking pattern i.e. walking on rear 2 limbs.

          Differences of gait patterns cause by alternate-simultaneous movements of different segments of the body with least energy expenditure and characterized by differences in limb movement patterns, overall velocity,forces, kinetic and potential energy cycles and changes in the contact with the surface.

Phases of gait·

  • Stance Phase  
The phase during which the foot remains in contact with the ground,

-       Initial Contact (Heel Strike)

-       Loading Response (Foot Flat)

-       Mid Stance

-       Toe Off (Pre Swing)

  • Swing Phase  
The phase during which the foot is not in contact with the ground,

-       Initial Swing

-       Mid Swing

-       Terminal Swing 


  • Single Support: In single support only one foot is in contact with the ground.
  • Double Support: In double support both feet are in contact with the ground.

Abnormal gait:

          Abnormal gait or a walking abnormality is when a person is unable to walk in the usual way. Walking needs coordination of many systems, such as strength, coordination, and sensation which work together to allow a person to walk.

          Orthopedic corrective treatments may also manifest into gait abnormality, such as lower extremity amputation, post-fracture and arthroplasty (joint replacement). 

          Persons suffering from peripheral neuropathy experience numbness and tingling in their hands and feet. This can cause ambulation impairment as climbing stairs or maintaining balance.

Types of abnormal gait

  • Spastic gait  

Person drags his or her feet while walking.

  • Gluteus medius gait  
1 side paralysis results in Trendelenburg gate where as both side paralysis results in waddling gait.
  • Quadriceps (hand to knee) gait

Person locks his or her knee with hands while walking. 

  • Scissors gait 
Person’s legs cross and may hit each other while walking·
  • Foot drop gait  
Person's toes point towards the ground and he or she slaps on ground with foot while walking.
  • Genu recurvetum gait
Knee goes into hyper extension while stance phase·
  • Paddling gait

Person moves from side to side when walking·

  • Propulsive gait

A person walks with his or her head and neck pushed forward.

  • Hemiplegic gait
Person moves his or her leg stiff circular pattern·
  • Parkinson’s diseases gait 
Person stands with his or her whole body flexed forward & knee bent.They take small & rapid steps forward.·
  • Cerebellar gait

Person stands with a wide stance and tends to fall towards the affected side while walking. While standing still, their trunk tends to sway.

  • Cerebral palsy gait

Person or child walks almost on a tip toe and have extensive spasm of lower limb muscles (especially hip adductors).

  • Ataxic gait
Person lacks coordination and resembles like drunken person’s walk.


  • Neurological causes

-Parkinson’s disease


-Cerebellar / sensory ataxia

  • Muscular

-muscle paralysis

-Muscle injury

-diseases/ inflammation of muscle or tendon

  • Congenital

-Limb length discrepancy

  • Joint muscular limitation


  • pain

How do we assess your gait?

          Your physiotherapist will assess your gait (walking) pattern by observing length of step, stride length, speed of walking, cadence, trunk rotations, upper body / limb movements, etc.

          Some imaging modes like X-rays & MRIs also help in diagnosing cause of abnormal gait.

          Some doctors / physiotherapists use body movement sensors which digitally record pattern of limb movements. This method gives precise picture of faulty gait pattern.

Treatment and management 

          A person with an abnormal gait may develop additional aches and pains associated with their walking pattern. Some causes of an abnormal gait are short-term and easy to treat, while others can last a lifetime.

          Physical therapy helps return the gait to normal.

Treatment & Management of gait abnormalities are explain in detail in the next article.