Visual control of step length during running over irregular terrain

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1986 Aug;12(3):259-66. doi: 10.1037//0096-1523.12.3.259.


Running over uneven ground requires visually regulating step length to secure proper footing. To examine how this is achieved, we studied subjects running on a treadmill on a series of irregularly spaced targets. The movements of their lower limbs and coccyx relative to the targets were monitored opto-electronically by a Selspot system. The results indicated that step length was adjusted to strike the targets primarily by varying the vertical component of impulse applied to the ground during the stance phase. In contrast, horizontal impulse was not varied significantly, and changing the reach forward of the foot on landing contributed little to variation in step length. Changing the vertical impulse simply altered the step time proportionately. Thus the data are consistent with a time-based model in which vertical impulse is modulated by the optic variable delta tau (Lee, 1976) specifying the time gap that has to be bridged by the runner between two targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Coccyx / physiology
  • Gait*
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Movement
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Running*
  • Vision, Ocular*