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Gait

Watch the children walking and running – they are healthy girls aged 3 and 17 months. How does their gait differ? The text below explains further.

  • There is considerable variation in the way normal gait patterns develop - these may be familial (e.g. ‘bottom-shufflers’ often walk later) and subject to racial variation (e.g. African Black children tend to walk sooner and Asian children later than average).
  • The normal toddler has a broad base gait for support, and appears to be high stepped and flat-footed with arms outstretched for balance. The legs are externally rotated with a degree of bowing. Heel strike develops around 15 to 18 months with reciprocal arm swing. Running and change of direction occur after the age of 2 years, although this is often accompanied by frequent falls until the child acquires balance and coordination. In the school-age child, the step length increases and step frequency slows.
  • Adult gait and posture occur around the age of 8 years. Normal gait follows ‘swing’, ‘stance’, and ‘toe-off’ phases; a painful or antalgic gait leads to shortening of the stance phase on the affected limb, and therefore lengthening of the swing phase.