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Step length determines minimum toe clearance in older adults and people with Parkinson’s disease

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Lisa AlcockORCiD, Dr Brook Galna, Professor Richard Perkins, Dr Susan Lord, Professor Lynn RochesterORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


AbstractReduced foot clearance when walking may increase the risk of trips and falls in people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Changes in foot clearance in PD are likely to be associated with temporal-spatial characteristics of gait such as walking slowly which evokes alterations in the temporal-spatial control of stepping patterns. Enhancing our understanding of the temporal-spatial determinants of foot clearance may inform the design of falls prevention therapies. Thirty-six people with PD and 38 age-matched controls completed four intermittent walks under two conditions: self-selected and fast gait velocity. Temporal-spatial characteristics of gait and foot (heel and toe) clearance outcomes were obtained using an instrumented walkway and 3D motion capture, respectively. A general linear model was used to quantify the effect of PD and walking speed on gait and foot clearance. Regression evaluated the temporal and spatial gait predictors of minimum toe clearance (MTC).PD walked slower regardless of condition (p<.001) and tended to increase their step length to achieve a faster gait velocity. Step length and the walk ratio consistently explained the greatest proportion of variance in MTC (>28% and >33%, respectively) regardless of group or walking speed (p<.001). Our results suggest step length is the primary determinant of MTC regardless of pathology. Interventions that focus on increasing step length may help to reduce the risk of trips and falls during gait, however, clinical trials are required for robust evaluation.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Alcock L, Galna B, Perkins R, Lord S, Rochester L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Biomechanics

Year: 2018

Volume: 71

Pages: 30-36

Print publication date: 11/04/2018

Online publication date: 13/12/2017

Acceptance date: 04/12/2017

Date deposited: 14/12/2017

ISSN (print): 0021-9290

ISSN (electronic): 1873-2380

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2017.12.002


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Funder referenceFunder name
J-0802Parkinson`s UK (formerly Parkinson`s Disease Society)