Background: Understanding the effects of gait speed on biomechanical variables is fundamental for a proper evaluation of alterations in gait, since pathological individuals tend to walk slower than healthy controls. Therefore, the aim of the study was to perform a systematic review of the effects of gait speed on spatiotemporal parameters, joint kinematics, joint kinetics, and ground reaction forces in healthy children, young adults, and older adults.
Methods: A systematic electronic search was performed on PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science databases to identify studies published between 1980 and 2019. A modified Quality Index was applied to assess methodological quality, and effect sizes with 95% confidence intervals were calculated as the standardized mean differences. For the meta-analyses, a fixed or random effect model and the statistical heterogeneity were calculated using the I2 index.
Results: Twenty original full-length studies were included in the final analyses with a total of 587 healthy individuals evaluated, of which four studies analyzed the gait pattern of 227 children, 16 studies of 310 young adults, and three studies of 59 older adults. In general, gait speed affected the amplitude of spatiotemporal gait parameters, joint kinematics, joint kinetics, and ground reaction forces with a decrease at slow speeds and increase at fast speeds in relation to the comfortable speed. Specifically, moderate-to-large effect sizes were found for each age group and speed: children (slow, - 3.61 to 0.59; fast, - 1.05 to 2.97), young adults (slow, - 3.56 to 4.06; fast, - 4.28 to 4.38), and older adults (slow, - 1.76 to 0.52; fast, - 0.29 to 1.43).
Conclusions: This review identified that speed affected the gait patterns of different populations with respect to the amplitude of spatiotemporal parameters, joint kinematics, joint kinetics, and ground reaction forces. Specifically, most of the values analyzed decreased at slower speeds and increased at faster speeds. Therefore, the effects of speed on gait patterns should also be considered when comparing the gait analysis of pathological individuals with normal or control ones.
Keywords: Gait analysis; Ground reaction forces; Kinematics; Kinetics; Walking speed.