It is currently unclear whether it is the need to maintain metabolic efficiency, the need to keep skeletal loading below critical force levels, or simple mechanical factors that drive the walk-to-run (W-R) and run-to-walk (R-W) transitions in human gait. Eighteen adults (9 males and 9 females) locomoted on an instrumented treadmill using their preferred gait. Each completed 2 ascending (W-R) and 2 descending (R-W) series of trials under three levels of loading (0%, 15% and 30% body weight). For each trial, participants locomoted for 60 s at each of 9 different speeds--4 speeds both above and below their preferred transition speed (PTS) plus their PTS. Evidence was sought for critical levels of key kinetic (maximum vertical force, impulse, first peak force, time to first peak force and maximum loading rate), energetic (oxygen consumption, transport cost) and mechanical variables (limb lengths, strength) predictive of the gait transition. Analyses suggested the kinetic variables of time to first peak force and loading rate as the most likely determinants of the W-R and R-W transitions.
Copyright 2003 Elsevier Science B.V.