As humans, we constantly change our movement strategies to adapt to changes in physical functions and the external environment. We have to walk very slowly in situations with a high risk of falling, such as walking on slippery ice, carrying an overflowing cup of water, or muscle weakness owing to aging or motor deficit. However, previous studies have shown that a normal gait pattern at low speeds results in reduced efficiency and stability in comparison with those at a normal speed. Another possible strategy is to change the gait pattern from normal to step-to gait, in which the other foot is aligned with the first swing foot. However, the efficiency and stability of the step-to gait pattern at low speeds have not been investigated yet. Therefore, in this study, we compared the efficiency and stability of the normal and step-to gait patterns at intermediate, low, and very low speeds. Eleven healthy participants were asked to walk with a normal gait and step-to gait on a treadmill at five different speeds (i.e., 10, 20, 30, 40, and 60 m/min), ranging from very low to normal walking speed. The efficiency parameters (percent recovery and walk ratio) and stability parameters (center of mass lateral displacement) were analyzed from the motion capture data and then compared for the two gait patterns. The results suggested that step-to gait had a more efficient gait pattern at very low speeds of 10–30 m/min, with a larger percent recovery, and was more stable at 10–60 m/min in comparison with a normal gait. However, the efficiency of the normal gait was better than that of the step-to gait pattern at 60 m/min. Therefore, step-to gait is effective in improving gait efficiency and stability when faced with situations that force us to walk slowly or hinder quick walking because of muscle weakness owing to aging or motor deficit along with a high risk of falling.
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