Is gait variability reliable? An assessment of spatio-temporal parameters of gait variability during continuous overground walking

N König, N B Singh, J von Beckerath, L Janke, W R Taylor
Gait & Posture 2014, 39 (1): 615-7
The assessment of gait variability has become an important indicator for quantifying motor performance. However, the use of treadmills is known to influence the temporal rhythm of gait, while non-continuous (i.e. stop-start) overground walking alters gait variability, leading to erroneous results. Through establishing the "8-walk", an overground walking protocol that allows the collection of a high number of consecutive gait cycles, the aim of this study was to determine the conditions under which gait variability can be assessed reliably. Twelve healthy subjects performed continuous barefoot walking at their preferred speed in a path shaped as an "8". Kinematic data of the dominant foot was collected while subjects walked along the straight 10 m sections of the 8-walk during sessions on two different days. Mean spatio-temporal parameters of gait and gait variability were computed for 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 consecutive cycles. All mean parameters of gait showed excellent reliability (ICC: 0.88-0.98) with only 10 cycles included in the analysis. However, the reliability of spatial and temporal parameters of gait variability improved with increasing number of cycles (ICC: 0.60-0.90) but levelled-off after 50 consecutive cycles, revealing an inter-day test-retest variability of ≈ 13%. To reliably assess gait variability and evaluate human motor performance, we propose the collection of at least 50 cycles and the use of an 8-walk protocol, which avoids the limitations of treadmill and non-consecutive walking protocols.

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