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The manner of how a person walks, runs, or moves along on foot is called his or her gait. Gait abnormalities are unusual and uncontrolled walking patterns, usually caused by diseases or injuries to the legs, feet, brain, spine, or inner ear. Many different types of walking abnormalities are produced unconsciously. Most, but not all, are due to some physical condition.
Some walking abnormalities are so characteristic that they have been given descriptive names:
- Propulsive gait; a stooped, rigid posture, with the head and neck bent forward
- Scissors gait; legs flexed slightly at the hips and knees, giving the appearance of crouching, with the knees and thighs hitting or crossing in a scissors-like movement
- Spastic gait; a stiff, foot-dragging walk caused by one-sided, long-term muscle contraction
- Steppage gait; foot drop where the foot hangs with the toes pointing down, causing the toes to scrape the ground while walking
- Waddling gait; a distinctive duck-like walk that may appear in childhood or later in life
To achieve a normal or functional gait pattern, an individual must have three major attributes: an adequate range of joint mobility; appropriate timing of muscle activation across the gait cycle (time between the first contact with the ground by the heel of the one foot and the next heel-ground contact with the same foot); and unimpaired sensory input from the visual, somatosensory, and vestibular systems.
Particularly important muscles for gait include the hip extensors, knee extensors, plantar flexors, and dorsiflexors. A significant weakness in any of these muscle groups will adversely affect the quality of the gait pattern.
People with gait abnormalities you should consult with their physicians before performing any physical activity.
- Allow plenty of time to complete daily activities, especially walking.
- Wear appropriate shoes and clothing that will not hinder your ability to walk freely.
- Wear prescribed leg braces and in-shoe splints for proper foot alignment during standing and walking.
- Use a cane or walker if necessary for added support and balance.
- Check skin after bouts of walking and standing to avoid skin breakdown and ulcers.