International Encyclopedia of Rehabilitation


Act of walking, to walk around.

English equivalent of the term from KAMENETZ, Herman L. and Georgette Kamenetz. Dictionnaire de médecine physique de rééducation et réadaptation fonctionnelles, Paris, Maloine, 1972, 205 p., p. 49.

Manner of walking or running. During the cycle of normal human gait, each lower limb goes through a stance phase and a swing phase. Each stance phase is subdivided into heel strike, foot flat (during midstance), knee bend, heel off (during push off), and toe clearance, which initiates the swing phase. The latter, with acceleration in the first half and deceleration in the second half, terminates with the heel strike.

abducted gait

Gait with continuous abduction of the lower limbs. Often seen in a lower-limb amputee who adopts this gait for greater stability or because the prosthesis is too long.

ambling gait

Gait in which both limbs of the same side advance at the same time. It is sometimes used in exercises in the quadruped position.

ambling two-point gait

Gait in which the crutch or cane is advanced together with the lower limb of the same side.

antalgic gait

A self-protective limp due to pain.

back-jack gait

Gait in which the crutches, from a forward position, are moved back so that their tips are in line with the toes. Then, the subject, by flexing the trunk and hiking the pelvis, lifts the feet and places them slightly backward.

cerebellar gait

Festinating gait during which each step leads to an excessive lateralized deviation. Starting out is hesitant and delayed, stopping is uncertain. Steps are unequal and irregular. Sometimes, the lower limbs are abnormally projected. Asynergia appears in the form of abnormal arm swinging and abnormal trunk posture (leaning backwards).

English equivalent of the term from BÉRUBÉ, Louise. Terminologie de neuropsychologie et de neurologie du comportement, Montréal, Les Éditions de la Chenelière Inc., 1991, 176 p., p. 104.

circumduction gait

Gait in which one lower limb is swung forward in a hemicircular fashion, with knee extended. Typical of spastic hemiplegia.

compass gait

  1. So called because the tracing of the path reminds one of a mariner's compass. The subject, blindfolded, upon being asked to walk alternately forward and backward for a distance of 6 to 8 steps, turns slightly to one side at every change of direction, always to the same side, thus after about 10 walks (5 in each direction) having turned a total of 180° since the start. It may be a sign of vestibulocerebellar. (After Monrad-Krohn.)
  2. Gait in which both knees are extended and the limbs kept abducted, comparable to the legs of a drawing compass.

crouch gait

Gait with exaggerated flexion of hips and knees. Often seen in spastic paraplegia, e.g., in cerebral palsy.

diving gait

A limping gait with flexion of the trunk, characteristic of unequal length of the lower limbs. The body "dives" upon weightbearing on the shorter limb.

double step gait

Gait in which there is a marked difference in length or timing between the left and the right step.

drag-to gait

A gait in which the patient slides the feet along the floor toward the advanced crutches or --exceptionally--canes.

drop-off gait

  1. Insufficient heelrise at pushoff (due to deficient plantar flexion of the ankle or lack of control of ankle dorsiflexion), resulting in a shorter step on the opposite side (reduced amplitude of swing phase).
  2. Gait deviation in persons with a lower-limb prothesis; called also drop-off at end of stance phase: after the heel of the shoe on the prosthesis has touched the floor, the rest of the shoe drops quickly instead of rolling off progressively.

eggshell gait

Gait with small steps and reduced motion in the joints of feet, as if walking on eggshells. Characteristic of metatarsalgia.

festinating gait

A type of gait characteristic of some extrapyramidal syndromes and particularly of parkinsonism. It consists of involuntary acceleration of the gait, in which very small steps are taken (march 'a petit pas), with the body leaning forward, as if chasing its center of gravity.

four-point gait

A crutch (or cane) gait with the following sequence: left crutch, right foot, right crutch, left foot.

heel-toe gait

Any gait in which, as in normal walking, the foot first touches the ground with the heel, then smoothly rolls over to the anterior part, then to the toes, while the heel leaves the ground.

hemiplegic gait

Typical gait of a hemiplegic patient with, on the involved side, flexed elbow, stiff knee, and inverted, plantarflexed ankle, the lower limb being swung forward in a semicircular fashion.

hesitant gait

Gait charactarized by hesitation at its start. Seen in parkinsonism.

high steppage gait

Gait in which the foot is raised high and brought down suddenly, the whole sole striking the group in a flapping fashion.

intermittent double step gait

Gait seen in some cases of hemiplegia (occasionally also in hip fracture). First variation: pause after the quick short step of the nonaffected foot. Second variation: pause after the step of the hemiplegic foot. Both patterns are also used in gait training in order to improve stability. Described in 1958 by American physiatrist Mieczyslaw Peszczynski.

kangaroo gait or walk

Walking on hands and feet, knees kept extended.

lumbering gait

A gait with heavy and clumsy movements due to the great weight and bulk of the individual.

magnetic gait

A gait in which the feet seem heavy and difficult to lift, as if magnetized to the floor.

marche à petits pas

French for "walking with small steps." A gait with very short steps, as in parkinsonism.

mincing gait

Gait with very small and rather quick steps, often exhibited by women in high-heeled shoes.

pacing gait

Walking with slow, measured steps.

pivot gait or walk

The mode of progression of a paraplegic person in a pivot-ambulating crutchless orthosis. By rotary motion of the trunk the subject pivots together with the support, alternately to the right and to the left, thus advancing or retreating. The axis of rotation is lateral to the feet, and both feet move together with the support.

plantigrade gait or walking

Walking on all fours, the floor being touched only by the palmar aspect of the hand (or its digits) and the plantar aspect of the foot or toes.

point gait

General term for four-point gait or two-point gait as opposed to swing gait (swing-to and swing-through gaits).

propulsive gait

Acceleration in walking because of tendency to fall forward. Similar to, but more pronounced than, festinating gait; also observed in parkinsonism.

quadrupedal gait

Walking on hands and feet, or hands and knees. Rarely are the forearms used instead of the hands.

reeling gait

Gait with staggering or swaying from one side to the other. Seen in drunk subjects.

retropulsive gait

Walking backward involuntarily. Seen in parkinsonism.

rocking-chair gait

A crutch gait: the subject advances the crutches (usually only a few centimeters) then rocks back and forth to produce the effort necessary to bring the feet forward, overcoming inertia and friction.

scissors gait

Walking with constant adduction of both thighs, typical of cerebral palsy.

shuffling gait

Gait in which the feet hardly leave the ground. Often combined with short steps. Seen in parkinsonism and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

sideward gait

Gait in which first one crutch (or cane) is moved to the side, then the foot next to it, the other foot, and finally the second crutch (or cane).

spastic gait

Gait characterized by abrupt, incoordinated motions of one or several parts of the body, due to spasticity.

staggering gait

Gait with incoordination in the lower limbs, manifesting unsteadiness.

steppage gait

Walking with exaggerated flexion of the hip and knee because of a flaccid dropfoot, thus avoiding stumbling; typical of paralysis of the deep peroneal nerve.

striding gait

Walking with long steps.

swing-through gait

Gait in which first the crutches (rarely canes) are advanced, then both lower limbs are swung ahead of them.

swivel gait or walk

The mode of progression in a swivel walk prosthesis, a prosthesis for children devoid of lower limbs. The trunk, with the help of the upper limbs, is rotated alternately to the left and to the right, whereby one foot piece slightly leaves the floor, moving in a small arc around the other. It resembles the pivot gait but the arc of progression is smaller

tabetic gait

Slapping gait charateristic of tabes dorsalis.

tandem gait

Gait in which the feet advance, one after the other, in a straight line, tandem-like. This tandem walking is also used as a test or coordination.

three-point gait

Gait in which the crutches (or canes) are brought forward together with the involved lower limb, followed by the uninvolved lower limb.

titubating gait

Incoordinated gait which may include staggering or stumbling in the motions or the lower limbs, or shaking of the trunk or head. Observed in drunkenness and in cerebellar disease.

toddling gait

Gait characterized by instability, such as seen in a small children learning to walk. Hence the term toddler for such a child.

toe gait

Walking on the anterior part of the feet. It may be normal (as an exercise or in dancing) or pathologic (shortened calf muscles, as in muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy). It may also be used as a test of balance or strength.

toeing-in (toeing-out) gait

Walking with feet or toes turned in (toeing-in gait) or turned out (toeing-out gait).

tottering gait

Unsteady gait, similar to the ataxic gait, seen in very weak subjects.

Trendelenburg gait

Gait resulting from a disturbance in the mechanism of the hip abductors. It is associated with a positive Trendelenburg test. During stance phase of the involved side, the pelvis cannot be stabilized. Therefore it drops on the side of the swinging lower limb. Also called gluteus medius gait. Frequently the patient avoids the drop of the pelvis by lateral trunk bending to the side of the supporting limb, i.e., the involved side. This is called compensated Tredelenburg gait. A waddling gait results when such compensatory trunk bending occurs bilaterally.

tripod gait

Gait with crutches (rarely canes) in which the feet always remain close together and behind the crutches. Thus the feet, form one part of a tripod, and the crutches the other two.

tripod alternate-step gait

Gait in which the crutches (rarely the canes) are brought forward together, then one foot after the other while still remaining behind, thus forming the third part of the tripod.

tripod drag-to gait

Gait in which the feet are dragged forward together, after the crutches (together or separately) have been advanced. Also called tripod simultaneous-crutch gait (if crutches are advanced together) or tripod alternate-crutch gait (if advanced separately).

two-point gait Gait in which the right crutch or cane moves with the left lower limb and the left crutch with the right lower limb.

waddling gait

Gait with lateral trunk flexion on each step toward the side of the supporting lower limb. Seen in bilateral congenital subluxation of the hip joint, bilateral coxa vara, muscular dystrophy, and other deficiencies of the hip abductors.


Eisenberg MG. 1995. Dictionary of Rehabilitation. New York: Springer Publishing Company. 375 p. Used with permission.

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