Elderly adults consume more metabolic energy during walking than young adults. Our study tested the hypothesis that elderly adults consume more metabolic energy during walking than young adults because they perform more individual limb work on the center of mass. Thus we compared how much individual limb work young and elderly adults performed on the center of mass during walking. We measured metabolic rate and ground reaction force while 10 elderly and 10 young subjects walked at 5 speeds between 0.7 and 1.8 m/s. Compared with young subjects, elderly subjects consumed an average of 20% more metabolic energy (P=0.010), whereas they performed an average of 10% less individual limb work during walking over the range of speeds (P=0.028). During the single-support phase, elderly and young subjects both conserved approximately 80% of the center of mass mechanical energy by inverted pendulum energy exchange and performed a similar amount of individual limb work (P=0.473). However, during double support, elderly subjects performed an average of 17% less individual limb work than young subjects (P=0.007) because their forward speed fluctuated less (P=0.006). We conclude that the greater metabolic cost of walking in elderly adults cannot be explained by a difference in individual limb work. Future studies should examine whether a greater metabolic cost of stabilization, reduced muscle efficiency, greater antagonist cocontraction, and/or a greater cost of generating muscle force cause the elevated metabolic cost of walking in elderly adults.